Black Panther thoughts

  1. Women are generally on the right side of history.
  2. Paraphrasing here: “I want to be buried in the ocean with our ancestors who chose death over bondage.” (Can’t remember exactly what was said, but it was incredibly powerful.)
  3. Again, may be some paraphrasing: “In times of crisis, the wise build bridges, the foolish build barriers.” (Good rhetorical use of alliteration.)
  4. Amazing camera work and CGI.
  5. AWESOME cast.
    1. Hearing Martin Freeman with an American accent was a little odd, though.
  6. Overall, exceptional movie and one I look forward to seeing multiple times.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Early Morning Rantings of the Town Drunkard…

… and other observations about 2018.

“Dude looks like a lady!” he screamed at the top of his lungs at my shift manager, though with the slurring it may have well been “dude lookth like a shlady!” It was eleven in the morning, not long after we opened for brunch at the Applebees in Athens, Georgia. This guy was a regular, though if you’d pressed me to remember his name, I wouldn’t have an answer besides “Sir Osis of Deliver,” as I’m fairly sure if he’s still alive, that would be what’s tattooed across his forehead. However, the prognosis at that time was grim. The dude who looked like a lady was actually a lady – although she was not one may consider to be conventionally attractive. However, I think the drunk’s rant eleven years ago seems oddly applicable to this, the end of the first month of 2018.

Why? Well, let’s be frank with the facts of the matter. Gen X and the Boomers have managed to drive the federal government to shutdown for the second time in 5 years and the youngest of the millennial clade and the successive generation are cooking and eating laundry detergent pods for clicks and upvotes.


Beware: Going Abe Simpson on y’all.

What the hell is going on with people? Is life so miserable that:
1) You have to seriously and literally shut the government down because you’re incapable of actually being leaders and having a spine to make just, fair, and right decisions? and
2) You literally and seriously eat toxic soap pods so that your YouTube channel gets subscribers, your Reddit posts get upvotes, and your tweets get those ❤ things that Twitter does – oh, and retweets?


I wanna tackle the second thing first. What’s going on with this subset of the youth? The internet and neoliberal worldview have combined and create a monstrosity. People generally have a desire to feel validated, accepted, and liked. The spirit of competit


Two weeks have done little to clarify the confusion.

ion fostered by neoliberalism, the laissez-faire, each-one-for-oneself-and-only-oneself is on the one hand inherently selfish, set to benefit the fewest number of people, and on the other hand, totally designed to annihilate communities and the self that it would appear to benefit. Of course, this Tide Pod Challenge phenomenon is just another in a long line of bizarre forms that this self-annihilation takes. Before there were kids recording themselves cooking, eating, and yacking up Tide Pods, there were kids recording themselves on VHS injuring themselves – like Jackass. The difference being this time anyone can easily monetize misery – just as long as it’s getting likes, upvotes, and RTs. Each of those likes on YouTube means that this person is generating content where advertisers can start pumping money. With each increasingly poorly conceived decision that the content creator uploads, they get money: the moral blindness of the market operating by virtue of algorithm. I don’t necessarily want a moral arbiter in the market, that’s treading on some odd territory, but I’d like to see just a little bit of common sense restored and, with it, a feather’s touch of my faith in humanity.

Meanwhile, of course, the circus in Washington, DC, continues unabated. The federal government briefly closed, ostensibly because Democrats wouldn’t stomach any continuing funding for the federal government without action on the people affected by 45’s rescinding funding and support for those in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program initiated by the Obama administration. Let’s overlook, for a moment, that 45’s party holds literally every branch of government on the federal level: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial – somehow something conditioned on a majority vote falls to the minority party to receive the blame. Every bit of narrative that the GOP has pushed places the blame squarely at Democrats’ feet. Just a cursory look at the actual facts on the ground gives up the lie: Republicans continue to be thoroughly uninterested in actual governance and now that they have a President* in place who is thoroughly uninterested in anything outside himself, they can do as they please, taking sledges to all of the remaining functioning pieces of government and then hiding their sledges and proclaim loudly:


Of course the government doesn’t work, for the same reason you don’t leave a patient in the care of a blood-thirsty butcher.

Has the world always made such little sense? Have lies always been so easy to get away with? Or was I just so naïve to the true workings of the world? I remember thinking in the 1990s: at least Clinton had the desire to lie to us artfully enough to conceive of a plausible deniability and keep us blind to the workings of the world. In the 2000s, I remember being angry that the Bush administration had the audacity to lie poorly. Now I wonder about the incessant lying that comes from the doors of the White House, so easily disproved by a cursory search on the Google, but readily consumed and disseminated by the complicit. How easily is it that the tools of an open society can be used by those with malice within them to manipulate data and overwhelm us with the sheer volume of bull? Pardon the word repetition here, but the non-stop data, the non-stop non-data, and the non-stop effluence that passes as news is, quite simply, overwhelming.

So pardon me while I yell at the clouds for a little bit. It’ll be better for all of us.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


This blog post began as an incomplete article for the then Baldwin-Wallace College Exponent in 2006. Over a decade ago, in the backwaters of Cleveland-area late night television, there appeared commercials for Norton Furniture. These commercials were spectacularly tacky, like only a homemade and locally-broadcast commercial can be. The owner/manager of the store, Marc, would be the focus of the commercial, speaking directly to the camera while some off-screen or on-screen hijinx or other odd happening was occurring in his area. The commercial that follows is a fairly representative sample.

One day in the spring of 2006, my friend Chris and I cooked up a scheme to find out what the deal was with this Marc guy. Was his voice real? Did those pieces actually exist in that furniture store? And could we really count on it?

As it turns out, we could, but that’s jumping ahead in the story a bit.

In the spring of 2006, my college career was careening off the rails a bit and I had come to the realization that I was not going to graduate on time. Instead of coming to terms with this realization and making plans for the future (full disclosure: I did finish my B.A. in the fall of 2006), I stayed up late and had anxiety-fueled idea sessions. One of these commercials grabbed me. What was this place? Was it real? It was all so… well… strange… and my white-bread brain couldn’t process it. Also, what does it mean if you can’t get credit anywhere but you can there? Anyway, Chris and I talked about this commercial and we wanted to get the inside look as to what was going on. How? How could we find out the inner workings of this place?

We would be reporters. One of us would photograph. The other would interview. We would say that we were reporters with the Exponent (we weren’t) and that we wanted to fill in the student body out in Berea on the details of this bizarre wonderland (we kinda did – but that wasn’t the point.) History was on my side here, you see.

I had previously faked being a reporter for the Exponent when I’d been a freshman. The McDonald’s All-American High School Basketball Game was being held in Cleveland and practices were being held at the gymnasium at Baldwin-Wallace.


Ryan LaFountain – Definitely Fake News.

A couple friends and I were curious about what was going on and we’d heard that Lebron James had been spotted on campus. We wanted part of that action. We wanted to meet Lebron and check out the practice sessions. First words out of my mouth:

Why don’t we say we’re from the Exponent?

Luckily, the burden of proof required from the  organizers was non-existent and we were able to each procure a media pass and invitation to go to Gund Arena to meet with the players and others. We met Lebron, which was cool, and Kevin McHale, who, by the way, is one tall-ass human being. Anyway, this is all to say that, yeah, we could get away with acting like with were with some piddling college newspaper.

We drove from Berea to 2106 Payne Ave, Norton Furniture’s only location, just outside of downtown Cleveland. I was excited. Chris was excited. We had generated this ruse so that we could meet the Marc Brown from Norton Furniture! There was nothing completely and unexceptionally lame about that!

Marc was an interesting cat. Astute businessman – he’s still in business! – and his voice sounded exactly like what you heard on late-night Cleveland television. I no longer have the notes from our made up assignment, so this is all going off of memory and the pictures that I have jogging my memory. Walking in, I remember being blown away by how large the interior seemed. Floor pieces seemed to just go on and on. Marc invited us to his office to discuss business a bit and, again, this part’s been lost to me. I do remember how clear he made it that he would do business with almost anyone. Part of that belief to give people a chance when extending credit has shaped my understanding of credit since. He also invited us to take a tour of the store.

This was what we really came for. Did he have all of the crazy pieces that showed up in the commercials?


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Yes. Yes, he most certainly did.

The pictures really tell the whole story. Mark with his two lamp ladies, me sitting on a couch gazing at a zebra’s rear. And they were all for sale! What kind of furniture was this? my 21-year old mind asked in wonder. Was this for real?

It was incredibly for real, very much unlike the article I was going to write for the Exponent. What a shame, too, because so many of those memories could have been better documented. But the article didn’t happen.

But at least we’ve got the pictures.


Posted in Baldwin-Wallace College, Cleveland, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Holiday De-lighting

For one last time in December 2017, the luminous fir spruce sitting in our living – slash – family – slash – library room would have its lights shut off. Down come the star, the surviving glass ornaments, a glazed-into-time sugar cookie that I made 25 years ago in 2nd or 3rd grade, the garland, and the assortment of lights that adorned our slightly cockeyed tree for 2 weeks. I think my fiancée wants to play Taps at the de-treeifying of the house, but I’m fine with seeing it go. Not being one who celebrates Christmas anymore, it just doesn’t mean anything to me – except maybe that it’s a tree, cut out from its forest of friends, just to serve whatever strange celebration we humans oblige it to. That and the showers of needles that fall on the floor any time someone walks by it with a slightly heavy foot. I’m no neat freak, but there is something about constantly seeing needles adorning our pine floors that makes the skin on my back crawl.

We sit in the multipurpose room, on couches once covered in cat hair, but now covered by bedsheets. The menorah sits on the mantle. The tree sits quietly in the back corner to the left of the fireplace. The room has assumed a mournful quality, as if the feeling of the tree’s being removed is a known fact by all those in the house and the house itself. We still have yet to clean up the wrapping paper scattered about the room since the morning. If we put doing that on hold, we don’t have to return to the real world of living in the office, or so we reason. Earlier this afternoon, we went to the Hotel Roanoke for their Christmas brunch. Until today, I had never eaten a meal in the Regency Room where I had to pay.

The food was delicious: a prime rib that was juicy and filled with flavor; heirloom potatoes; roasted leg of lamb; carrots cooked in a ginger and butter sauce. Despite never having had a Christmas meal quite like that, every morsel and bite exuded warmth and memories of Christmas – some plot to get me to remember Christmas as it never existed? Maybe. The dining room reminded me of a museum. Everyone seated, eating, and mostly aged over 65 years. It was like dining with the dead, everyone trying to eat their memories of Christmases of times gone by. Servants Servers wearing their uniforms, cooks in hats, hostesses at the entrance: it all smacked of something that felt as if it was lifted from years ago. It wasn’t natural – or, at least it didn’t feel natural. I told my fiancée this. I told her that it felt like we were eating in a museum, that it felt like a dinner date with the 1950s.

I would have hoped for a 1950s-sized bill. That’s one thing that didn’t stay in the past. Inflation set its teeth in and the business owners decided profits must be made, along with the unannounced 20% gratuity. I only hope my server got his cut, I’m not sure how they work the tips and gratuities at the Regency Room.

Oh – and the tree? It still waits for its final fate: in a heap on the curb, as we do to things we no longer deem time for. Except for Christmas brunch at the Hotel Roanoke. Somehow, for some reason, it survives.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I remember

“Why are you a Democrat, Ryan? I just don’t get it.”

That conversation happens a lot more than I care to admit and I can only give a two word answer: I remember. Of course, there’s a lot more to the answer than simply two words, but that’s the gist of it. It doesn’t have the same implications of the je me souviens of my Québécois forebears, but it’s all about remembering. Before I was in a relatively cushy job where I small-scale control the levers of capital, I waited tables. Heck, I documented some of the stuff that happened to me on this very blog! I remember days waiting tables at a chain restaurant in a college town, dreading going into work. Dreading going to work because, well, it turns out that people in a college town who go to a chain restaurant tend to be abusive if you don’t fit their worldview and don’t provide much in terms of financial remuneration for the verbal abuse.

Yes, the dreaded Ten Commandments coin tip. I worked 60+ hours a week for $2.13/hour, for a franchisee that would willfully not pay if you didn’t hit minimum wage (at that time, that would have been an additional $3.02/hr). Turns out it’s pretty hard to get by when you’re taking in about $200 per week. Basic math dictates that the bills are going to have a hard time being paid on a salary of word salad derogation and token representations of the Decalogue.  Who’d have thunk? There’s an additional rub to this whole mess, though.

Have you ever been injured on the job? Do you remember that story from the 1990s of the woman who sued McDonald’s following being scalded by their superheated coffee? Well, here’s a combo platter for you. About a month after I began working at said chain restaurant in above named college town, I was severely burned by a faulty hot-water dispenser attached to a tea brewer. My right hand experienced blistering and it hurt like an angry mother.  I was 22 and I had no idea what to do. My employer was useless. So I iced it. No health insurance; couldn’t go to the doctor. Obamacare was still the fevered dream of a liberal, so I couldn’t get coverage from under a parent’s plan. My hand blistered and slowly healed without medical attention; I have no idea what infections I could have exposed myself during that period of unsupervised recuperation. Of course, the bills needed to get paid, no such thing as paid time off when you’re working a low-skill job.

A couple weeks after the hot water incident, I developed a cold. Coughing here, there, everywhere. Again, I couldn’t go without the income, so I became patient zero in whatever petri dish that this restaurant was in March of 2007. This cold didn’t respond to a mass influx of OTC medications and an endless stream of citrus and evolved into pneumonia. Again, no doctor options since no insurance and the limited income also limited how much medication I could reasonably purchase. It sucked. I was sick for 4 weeks. 4 freaking weeks of hacking and cough, having a hard time breathing, and having to work for a crowd of people. By the way, have you tried doing a job interview while having a fever of 102 degrees?

It’s an experience, I’ll tell you what.

But that, in short form, is why I’m a Democrat. That’s why I support a living wage or some sort of basic income for every person, universal health care access, and strong labor rights with robust private-sector unions that collectively bargain for all employees. Because for a short period of my life, I learned what it was like to live adjacent to the margins, not truly on the margins, since I could rely on my education and privileged position in society to get me out of the table-waiting game. And while I had always thought of myself as a Democrat before, up until that point, I didn’t understand the implications. It was always an abstraction. Health care was an abstraction. Insurance was an abstraction. Everything was a goddamn abstraction from a book. Never real, never experienced. Until then.

That, my friends, that is why I am a Democrat. That is why I am proud to say that I support socialist causes and policies – I experienced just the lightest bit of living at the margin and it sucked. And I am not willing to let others have to live through that.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Epistula ad vitam

Dearest life,

I’m tired, yo, ya see? I’m tired of being constantly racked by anxiety and tension, of feeling this weird shit in my chest that’s probably nothing, that my doctors say is nothing, and i want to believe is nothing. I want to believe that my aversion to the heat is just that and that my fatigue after being outside in the heat is normal.

I know it’s normal, i mean, who the fuck doesn’t get worn out by being active in the heat of summer.

But fainting last week in the bathroom after C woke me up on the couch – dude, that shit is scary! I felt light headed and then BAM down i went. The subsequent bruising was none too pleasant, either. I feel, however, that i need to feed my soul’s meter. There might be a couple neglected tickets on it that deserve my mind’s attention. Maybe i ought to start paying attention to not only my body’s signals, but my mind’s signals as well. I’m not the best at picking up cues. Just ask C.

But that’s something i can work on.

But, dearest life, i’m growing tired of this shit. Man, i can’t drink 2 beers anymore without feeling completely garbage the next day. What’s with that? How can alcoholics do it and not lose their minds in the thick haze of headache that settles down for the greater portion of the next day?

Oh wait.

They can’t. Well, most of them. Some are so-called functional alcoholics, but it seems to me that “functional” is only a matter of perspective. You’re only functional up to the point when your body fails you. And I’ve been doing my damnedest not to do that for over the last year, dearest life.

You see, I have this unusual desire to stay alive, to bring a child or children into this world, to show and give love to as many people as I can. That’s why I cut back on drinking and quit smoking and have never touched anything harder than reefer. This getting older stuff, though. It’s for the birds. Combine that with routine systems maintenance – how does anyone get through this shit alive?

Eventually we don’t.

That’s why we need to take care of ourselves and each other, dearest life. It seems pretty self-evident, but i often lose sight of it when staring down a work project and find myself drowning in the midst of chaos. Better chaos than entropy, though. Right? What are these things on my soul’s windshield? What splatters and smears have clouded sight out of it and what tickets – damn, they’re still there – am I neglecting?

This one says I’ve overstayed my metered allotment and it’s time to move on from this parking spot, it’s time to let someone else in. This one is a warning to slow the fuck down before you spin out and crash into a wall and goddamn, son, you might kill yourself if you don’t take it easy. Another: parked the soul facing the wrong direction in the street. I didn’t even know they ticketed for that shit!

Stopped too long. Speeding. Looking backwards. Running stop signs. Where do the traffic infractions of my soul’s vehicle end? I guess here. They end here – when I stop and pay what’s owed to myself to rectify these citations and violations. Too many more and what’s going to be the point of wanting to continue with existence when I’ll be stopped for one final, flagrant metaphysical moving violation and that last citation, that last ticket will get my license revoked for at least a little bit. Unsafe at any speed, they’ll say. Can’t be trusted behind the wheel, they’ll say.

It’s time to pay back what’s owed, right? Settle those debts and move on with a clean slate. They’ll say that guy’s doing his best. They’ll say that guy – he’s here, he’s trying, and that’s the best you can do in this life. Keep trying.

And I guess that starts today.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

16 years on

It was a crystal clear morning. Mr. Martin’s health class went about as normally as it always went, until a knock at the door. Mr. Martin went over and conferred briefly and then went to the back of the classroom where there was a rabbit-eared television on a rickety cart. He turned on the television. We were greeted by speculation. There had been a horrible accident and a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

And then, very quickly, it became clear that this was no accident.

I might have slept a couple hours that night, having been glued to the television all day, anxious for what was going on, despite my own personal isolation from where anything might actually happen. After school wrapped up on September 11, 2001, my sister and I did what we always did: rode the bus home from school. I refused to get a driver’s license because I wasn’t sure I wanted the responsibility of having a car (and how the times change) and one of the unexpected consequences of that was that I was entertained by myriad hypotheses from fellow bus riders. Who did it. Why they did it. All cracked out of the imaginations of 14 to 18 year old public high school students.

We got home. Bethany, Tom, and I went to Gino’s for ice cream and pizza. Al Jazeera was on the TV in the cramped restaurant. I had never seen Al Jazeera before. The coverage on Al Jazeera was a breath of fresh air – it was detached and not filled with the rancor and emotion that we had been watching all day on CNN and (MS)NBC. The journalists were calm and not fueling rampant speculation.

I probably didn’t eat – whenever I get anxious, the first thing to go is my appetite. At some point thereafter, I left and walked a bit and ended up walking to my school district’s Superintendent’s house. This wasn’t terribly unusual, Mr. deGrandpré was the faculty advisor of the Key Club, of which I had lately served as the President. He invited me in and we discussed what this all meant as cameras panned in and around the smoldering rubble of lower Manhattan and pulverised human remains. Who did this? Why did they do this?

It became clear very early on that the narrative was that Islamic terrorists were responsible – something I did and do believe – and that it was an unprovoked act of pure evil – something I did not and do not believe. No one around me tried to bother understanding the situation in the Middle East, our bizarre relationship with the Saudi regime, our support of authoritarian regimes in the region who would be our friends and continue to supply us with cheap petrolized remains of dinosaurs provided we looked the other way and provided support when they cracked down on dissent.

It seems to me, even 16 years later, few people still try considering that. No, it is instead the Great Donnie Show – throw the Muslims out! build the Wall! M A K E A M E R I C A G R E A T A G A I N. All that meaningless bullshit. No, we’re more interested in building walls between each other, between ourselves, than we are at considering what has happened over the last 16 years; instead of giving ourselves to thoughtful consideration of managing the things that we *do* have control over, we, as a country, gave the keys of power to someone who has styled himself in the manner of a 3rd-world strongman. Mouthy. Loud. Belligerent. And incredibly lacking any capacity for compassion and circumspect. Instead of consideration, we created a storm of consternation for others with a President who lashes out at perceived slights in 140-character shouts. The great question is now not will America be made great (again)? but rather, will American democracy survive the next four years?

The last 8 months have been a mixed bag, to say the least. Left-leaning interest in smaller, local elections has reinvigorated the possibility for the end of right-wing dominance in many localities and states; however, the President’s commission on voter fraud will do its damnedest to ensure that it is as difficult as legally and plainly possible to vote. Kris Kobach will certainly see to that. Neo-Nazi and KKK groups have rallied in Berkeley and Charlottesville, among many localities, only to be met by larger counter-rallies to denounce their clinging to the object’s of America’s strange-fruited past. The neo-Nazi and KKK movements witnessed a resurgence after the election of Barack Obama in 2008. I remember very clearly when Obama was elected that gun stores in the Athens, Georgia, area held Obama Protection sales: stock up on those guns that he never said that he was going to take!

That fear, that baseless fear, helped lay the groundwork for how screwed up the United States of America is right now. Most of us didn’t stop to think and examine: we relied on the truthiness of the matter. We didn’t need the head to listen, we paid attention to what our gut was yelling and our gut was yelling that this foreign-named black Muslim guy that the country just elected President scared us, but we couldn’t say that he scared us because what are we racists or something (yes) so instead we said nothing about it, pretended it was all cool, went out and bought guns until we were armed to the goddamned teeth, and went about our lives with the rug bulging from stuff we had been sweeping under it.

And election night 2016 is when the rug erupted. All the vitriol, the hate: President-elect Donald Trump was here to fix it with the magic of his business acumen.

I laid in bed that night, thinking about what kind of world my son or daughter in 7 1/2 months would be born into. A month later, that worry would no longer matter: but still, what world would we continue to bring new life into? 2016 had already made itself known for the celebrities to depart from this Earth and all of a sudden, the election of Donald Trump seemed to promise a repeat performance on a grander scale.

As he looks at the red button, he chuckles to himself. There is no God but Don now. All our base are belong to him. North Korea, Iran, China, Russia, Israel, France, Germany, Canada: all you countries that doubted him shall see his truth. He’s fired anyone who has attempted to corral his energies in any meaningful way. Missile systems are ready for launch. After a moment, when the cameras are ready and focused on him, this big moment that he never thought he would be in in his wildest dreams, he presses down on the red button, looks up and without a hesitating moment, says in to the camera, “Missile: you’re fired!”

And all this because of fear. Because we didn’t stop and wonder to ourselves if this fear made any sense, if this fear stood up to the facts, if this fear was based in truth instead of truthiness. Our fear speaks not from the head, but from the gut. Gut emissions tend to come out one of two ways. Neither particularly pleasant. Please, I beg of you, let’s stop for a moment and reflect and talk about it. The sand is no place to keep a perfectly good head.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment