The Great Unload VI: Washington Park Goat Farm

The transition towards becoming a card-carrying member of Generation NPR was a gradual, sneaky one. Pick your cliche, but I didn’t see it coming: the game’s over, the end chapter is written, the revolution came from within. These days, I only watch documentaries, I only read non-fiction. If not for this persistent, gnawing sports talk radio problem, I’d only have the car “stereo” tuned from 88.1-90.7 fm. My music tastes line up with a really good mix-CD, offered as a premium with my next KWMU membership pledge. I’m one standard-issue, liberal, late-summer-of-lifer.

With my media desires still alive, I tend to run most thoughts about my future through an NPR-style prism. Could this project be a This American Life feature? Could that project spin-off a two-part feature for Slate? Can I do anything without thinking of it as a “project”?

The project of all projects, 2014-ready, is this one: founding a goat (and chicken and okra and pepper) farm in Washington Park. I’d start by buying multiple, nearby properties; a couple with structures and couple that are land-only would be ideal. (Then, you’re into “compound” mindset, which I where I aim to be.) After working through what I’d assume is a weird-and-byzantine set of regulations at the township’s city hall, the land could be tilled and the animal pens built. All through the process, cameras would roll, both still and video.

To be a white developer in any Washington Park context would bring along the underlying-to-overt elements of race and class, key thematic players in any, wort, NPR-style story. Organic farming and animal husbandry remain hot stories. Undertaking these efforts in a distressed neighborhood gives The Story even more gravitas, more currency.

Washington Park’s a town with needs, so many that a goat farm could probably exist in the context of this place; anyone going on the tax rolls would be welcome addition, seemingly. And yet…

There’d be challenges, more than a few. The per capita violence rate is real. You’d likely need to make some golden handshakes along the way. Distrust of the project’s basic intent would be part of the mix. But it’d also be fuel for The Story. It’s not located so far from the City center, but Washington Park’s its own entity, its own micro-world.

It’d be an interesting way to attack life.


Don’t think I’ll wind up living this life, as I lack the start-up cash, the business and farming skills, maybe even the social smarts. But if you wanna do it, I’m totally pitching in. Totally!

The Great Unload V: Corn vs. Korn (CvK)

In 2010, I offered up some ideas to the world, free of charge, free of expectations. Mixed results came from these earliest brainstorms. By my count, one had a positive conclusion: I listened to a Painkillers tape and thought it should get re-released and that’s exactly what happened. Turns out the band dug the idea, too, as did Euclid Records; the band even reformed, for a time. Ryan Coyne on the other hand, well, he still don’t wanna fight me. Out of the all the people in the world who wanna hit me, he’s not one. That’s bad luck. And my t-shirt idea floated away like an errant kite; bye-bye unloved idea! But in 2012, I offered my best, stillborn concept ever: the notion of a bar for Chicagoland expats, right here in good, old St. Louis. I’d say that once every three months, someone asks me about that one, suggesting that they’d considered it, or knew people who might. My price for anyone who takes this brilliant idea and runs with it remains a free Old Style. I’m still waiting.

Because I’m bursting with another round of ideas that have little-to-no chance of existing, it’s time to unload again…

We live in a world obsessed with the instantaneous feedback and satisfaction. Today’s idea wasn’t mine; it came to me from a friend, one who may not want to claim credit for this absolute gem of a thought. Which, by the way, was first discussed exactly three days ago. The background that you need is simple: I love corn. Right out of a can, on the cob, even in hydrated packets. Love it, love it, love it. And I love Korn. Early stuff, later stuff. (Okay, the dubstep years were a little rough on me.) But I love Korn, really I do. So why not combine the interests, with a site that would combine themes? Ladies and gentlemen: Corn vs. Korn, aka (Thanks be for Icelandic URLs.)

I’d love to visit and photograph an old-school, Missouri or Illinois corn farm. I’d love to post Q/A’s with former Monsanto chemists, who’ve gone rogue. On the other hand, I’d also like to interview Head and Munky. Win/win. This doesn’t seem like a forever idea, but as an idea built for three months? Information and entertainment gold, times two.

If I’m to believe the internet (and why wouldn’t I?), even the group’s dipped into the aggro-agriculture realm: “Korn Growing Corn in Studio While Working on New Album.” Wait? What! There’s gotta be a fit here!

Working with complete lack of patience and common-sense, I’m sending this idea to Korn’s publicist right now. If no word comes back within the next 72 hours, you know I’ll be panicking. Right here, in fact.

The Great Unload Series, circa 2014, returns tomorrow. Topic: goats!

The Great Unload IV: The Chicago Bar
The Great Unload III: Fighting Ryan Coyne
The Great Unload II: Tee-Shirts
The Great Unload I: Jeff Barbush/Painkillers


It’s the start of a new semester, a stripped-down one that sees me teaching two sections of Intro to Media Writing and… that’s it. After many years of working a full allotment of three classes a term, the switch feels good, liberating, relaxing. I plan to do some good teachin’, you know?

I also plan on reaching out to more students as the years go by. It’s not as if I didn’t know that former students are possessing good jobs, good careers; hell, my first students are pushing 35. But I hadn’t had the opportunity to reach out for work from one of them. And that’s still true, for the most part.

Last week, though, I took advantage of Gabe Bullard’s interest in the graffiti tagger Brr(r). Gabe’s based in Louisville, working for the public radio station there, WFPL. Brr(r)’s also based in Louisville, in the job of gettin’ up. I approached Gabe about a St. Louis perspective piece on Brr(r), as he hit local walls last summer. He accepted the offer. I wrote it up. And now it’s published.

My attempts to control the graffiti coverage of the Midwest takes another tentative step forward with this.


The Lessons of Digital Archaeology

Winter break, December ’13 and January ’14.  Here’s how I’ll remember it:

I spent the three weeks sitting in various coffeeshops, watching cars get caught on snow banks, as I sifted through hundreds of online clips. I’ve added those that were semi-organized to those that were lost-and-forgotten, creating a series of internal, clip file pages for this site. It’s taken roughly 30 hours to clean things up, in total: opted for a new theme; updated the Projects and Video/Film pages; cleaned the corners just about everywhere else, too. Mostly, though, the time was spent on long, tedious hours of cutting and pasting links to old articles, collapsing a former clips page on WordPress into this site, while rounding up every orphaned story I could locate.

It often felt like a pointless job. Vain, shoegazing, time-chewing. A job with no set payoff. Admittedly, there have times when I’ve remembered certain, whole periods of life, as well as reading stories that remind me of how much I’ve forgotten. (I interviewed former Cards pitcher Greg Mathews once? Really? Well, yeah, the web says I did.) What an odd way to learn your personal history, played out on the pages of local magazines, newspapers and websites.

Weirdly, though, I feel better about things now; like, totally better. There’s an inexplicable sense of completion and organization in puzzling through and completing tasks like this, even if I realize that there are hundreds of clips that’ll never be placed here. Because I’m old and predate the digital era. Because websites go through redesigns that scuttle your work into digital oblivion. Because I’ve written for a few latter-era magazines that are still print-only.

In a few months, I’ll forgot about the annoyance (and the occasional wrist pain). I’ll be able to sit back and realize that I’ve done some interesting work and took part in some worthwhile projects.

As I had to sort through dozens of RFT pieces (among the relative few that lived online at the time of my departure in ’99), an idea struck me. I’ve had the notion of a South City column. I’ve offered it to other media folks, with no takers. And the RFT would allow for a certain kind of storytelling. I sent out a note to an editor that I know there; to date, I’ve heard nothing back. In this exchange was a good lesson and one that I should’ve taken to heart the last two times I’ve freelanced for the RFT in my post-staffer days. There’s no future in the RFT for me. There’s an interesting, long past. But no future.

In my brain’s another idea and it’s all about the future; interestingly, though, the person that would be key in making it work is another RFT alum. Those are the kinds of connections that I should associate with those RFT years, collaborating with the friends and former co-workers with whom there could be another act. With luck, I might even be able to talk myself into all this future speak. Wish me luck, ’cause these last few weeks have been spent with all my waking attention spent looking back.

Break’s just about over now. It’s just about done.