Category Archives: Culture

Chris Cornell dead: the ghosts of Grunge welcome another genius into the fellowship

Nothing speaks to Grunge’s legacy of hopelessness more than the growing body count.

Chris Cornell: 1964-2017

I heard the news today, oh boy: Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell is dead at 52. According to the BBC it’s being investigated as a suicide.

I won’t bother trying to explain his legacy beyond stating the obvious: Cornell was a brilliant talent whose creative vision was central to defining the sound of a generation.

What I will do, though, is offer a lament for the doomed soul of Grunge.

I admit, up front, that I was never a huge fan of the genre. Continue reading Chris Cornell dead: the ghosts of Grunge welcome another genius into the fellowship

Four ways to tell if "Carolina style" barbecue is authentic

Short version: it isn’t. There’s no such thing as “Carolina style” barbecue.

The Chopped Plate from Mr. BBQ, the best barbecue restaurant in Winston-Salem, NC
The Chopped Plate from Mr. BBQ, the best barbecue restaurant in Winston-Salem, NC

I grew up in North Carolina, about 25 minutes from Lexington, the Barbecue Capital of the World. I suppose I sort of took this remarkable food for granted when I was younger. We’d go to Country Kitchen down at Gumtree Rd and Highway 52 when I was a kid and there was just nothing better in life than a chopped sandwich with a side of hush puppies. Later on, as I moved around, I’d frequent Mr. BBQ, Hill’s, Stratford BBQ and Pig Pickin’s in Winston-Salem. When I ventured down toward Lexington there were all kinds of options. For a while I favored Speedy’s, then Hog City came along and rocked the world. Through it all, of course, there was the old No. 1, Lexington BBQ, down on Highway 64, which Southern Living has justly called the best barbecue in the South. Even regular restaurants would often have barbecue on the menu. Continue reading Four ways to tell if "Carolina style" barbecue is authentic

S&R’s 2017 Word of the Year: “re-accommodation”

Is it too early to name something the ______ of the Year? Heck no. Let’s call it.

You probably saw where United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz lamented the need to “re-accommodate” that uncooperative passenger.

What a word, that: “re-accommodation.” It doesn’t just apply to airlines – it’s application is nearly limitless.

Every night in bars across America bouncers re-accommodate unruly guests.

The US government re-accommodated the Japanese during WW2.

The US also re-accommodated the Native Americans. For example, they re-accommodated the Cherokees from NC to Oklahoma (although we have to come up with something better than “Trail of Tears”).

There’s some re-accommodation going on right now at Standing Rock. Continue reading S&R’s 2017 Word of the Year: “re-accommodation”

The only way to defeat Trump and his supporters

It’s about tribalism. You cannot work with Trumpists. Period. You must defeat them and then fix the problems that handed them control.

It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into. – Jonathan Swift

Since the moment of Campaign 2016 when it became clear that Donald Trump actually had a chance, a lot of people have done a lot of thinking and pontificating and punditofying and writing and hand-wringing about the reasons for his viability. On one end of the spectrum: Donald gave the drooling, racist, misogynist, xenophobic, ignorant, anti-intellectual, hillbillies a cynical, smirking, dog-whistling charlatan they could line up behind. On the other, we’ve had all manner of thoughtful, complex analyses about how economic anxiety (and utter despair) fueled the rise of a non-partisan populist backlash against a political establishment that has spent decades betraying those it represents.

Both versions are compelling because each was built on a measure of observable truth. Continue reading The only way to defeat Trump and his supporters

Introducing the American Civic Debate Union: first event addresses the Electoral College

American Civic Debate Union logoWe need a new American consensus driven by a commitment to knowledge, reason and good faith engagement with those whose views differ from our own.

For decades I have toyed with the idea that we could use a civic forum for popular debate, an organization that would make it possible for communities to discuss the issues of the day in ways that would spark thought and reflection, perhaps enabling better decision-making come Election Day. This idea has grown stronger over the past 20 years, as the combined corrosive mechanisms of partisan tribalism, cable media and, worst of all, the Internet and social media seemed to find new and better ways of tearing society apart, making us dumber and more hateful in the process.

I broached the idea recently with friends and colleagues and their response convinced me that now was the time to give it a try. So I have founded what I’m ambitiously calling the American Civic Debate Union. Our first event will be held next Sunday here in Denver, and it will feature me squaring off with my good friend Dr. Frank Venturo over the question of whether the US ought to do something, once and for all, about the Electoral College. If so, what? Continue reading Introducing the American Civic Debate Union: first event addresses the Electoral College

Dear Liberals: you don't vote in your economic best interests, either

trump-votersBottom line: almost ALL Americans vote against their best interests.

For years progressives have been hammering conservatives – specifically social conservatives – who “vote against their own interests.” As in, poor working people who vote for the wealthy GOP interests that are the reason they’re poor, and whose policies insure they will remain that way. I have certainly been among this crowd – I remember wondering back in the 1992 election what the fuck could be wrong with Arkansas Bush I voters, for instance. They concluded that Dubya’s Daddy was the sort of guy “they’d like to have a beer with.” Somehow a Northeastern blueblood Skull & Boneser who’d been born with a silver spoon up his ass was more “one of them” than, you know, the guy who was actually born in the trailer park down the road.

It was irrational, it was self-defeating, and it was stupid beyond all imagining. Continue reading Dear Liberals: you don't vote in your economic best interests, either

Rural elites: I've had it with the arrogance of ignorance (and its promoters)

ignorance-is-powerThe only thing worse than the willfully ignorant is the legion of apologists enabling them.

Since the election – before, really – we’ve heard a lot of talk about how all those urban liberal elites need to stop being so arrogant and start listening to very real concerns of real Americans in rural flyover values America.

We have more recently begun to see some informed pushback against this silliness self-serving rhetorical engineering masquerading as good-faith socio-political analysis. Now we’ve hit the daily double, though.

First, our friend Otherwise passed along a righteous rant from a very frustrated Melinda Byerley, CMO of TimeShare. Have a quick look. Continue reading Rural elites: I've had it with the arrogance of ignorance (and its promoters)

Remembering 2016: the year when everyone died

No, famous people won’t stop dying on January 1. But we lost too many bright lights this year and we hope that 2017 will be better. Here’s a list of noteworthy people who died in 2016.

For the past several months a lot of us have been saying we can’t wait for this damned year to be over.

2016 gave us the worst election season I can remember, and every ten minutes or so another beloved artist would die, it seemed. Any year that gives us Donald Trump and takes Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Prince in return has done more damage than some decades.

No, people aren’t going to stop dying at the stroke of midnight tomorrow. Continue reading Remembering 2016: the year when everyone died

New Year Resolutions, pt 1: aim high and shoot straight

new-years-resolutionsI resolve to be more honest and direct in confronting ignorance and hatred.

Part 1 of a series

When I was a little boy, my grandparents read me the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14-30). They had a particularly Southern Baptist working class interpretation of what it meant. If you had a gift, the Lord intended you to use it to make the world a better place. If you didn’t, it was a sin and the gift might be taken from you.

“You’re smart,” they said to me. “God means you to use your brain to help others.”

Whether because my ego liked the idea of being smart or because I was innately concerned about other people’s well being, the lesson never left me.

When I got older and started my career, I developed a reputation among those I worked with as a guy who was honest. Continue reading New Year Resolutions, pt 1: aim high and shoot straight