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THE FLOG

MYTH in Photography

On Jan. 6, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville unveiled Unverified, which showcases 17 photographs. Each image serves as a portal into worlds of myth, fantasy and unsubstantiated fact that can become tangible through a camera lens. The exhibition contests the idea held by the general public that photography is the most truthful form of art, which raises it above all implications of fabrication. The artworks featured in Unverified demonstrate that  photography is a medium that can be manipulated into a distortion of reality, questioning the validity of photography as an objective and unbiased mode of representation.

Within contemporary society, there is a persistent haze of uncertainty that surrounds the authenticity of visual media. Anxieties fester over which images denote some semblance of reality and which depictions have been so thoroughly augmented, they no longer seem real. The showcasing of unreal visual elements embedded in photography is a broad theme; each photograph satisfies the main conceit of the exhibit. The premise of Unverified can be said to describe any random assortment of photographs which create a pictorial fiction. Such a generic, all-encompassing statement renders the basic tenor of the show somewhat rudimentary. Photography is a medium of persuasion and this caveat is mostly neglected in the narrative woven for the exhibition. The inclusion of pieces which reveal the artifice of photojournalism or documentary would have cemented a more challenging view of photography and its dubious status as an unbiased medium.

Still, works of several artists hint at the complexities that lie buried beneath the core of Unverified. The collaborative works of Jojakim Cortis and Adrian Sonderegger question the validity of photography by recreating iconic imageries which have had their authenticity disputed at length in public imagination. Lori Nix's miniature-yet-lifelike realms of decay upset the notion of photos as tools for impartial …   More

the flog

Local father: SMOKERS do more for children’s healthcare than Congress

You don't see them as much anymore, but they're still around. They're huddled 30 feet away from the door of your building. You walk by them, holding your nose high. Just seeing them can make you feel physically and morally superior. These downcast folks are the only remaining group of people it's still OK to openly discriminate against: Smokers. If you think people who still smoke in 2018 to be morally challenged dolts, there is a group more deserving of your disdain: Congressional Republicans.

Whatever you may think about 21st-century smokers, they are doing more to fund the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) than any GOP member of Congress. Federal tobacco excises pay for CHIP. Congress allowed the funding authorization of CHIP to expire last year and now there's no more money coming in. Florida has enough in reserve to last until some time in February, then CHIP goes out like a butt underfoot.

Today's Children's Health Insurance Program evolved from legislation beginning in 1989 with the intent to ensure health coverage for all Americans. It has been the most bipartisan endeavor since communist containment policy. CHIP was designed to aid working families who make too much to qualify for Medicaid or welfare but cannot afford health insurance for their children. The fact that CHIP was made to keep people off welfare and Medicaid, as well as provide healthcare for children, is why it has received such broad, bipartisan support over the years through four presidents, from George H.W. Bush through Barack Obama. The bill's initial Senate sponsors were the (now retiring) conservative stalwart Orrin Hatch and liberal icon Ted Kennedy.

CHIP currently serves 375,00 Florida kids. As of 2015, 25 percent of children living in Duval-based Congressional District 4 were receiving CHIP benefits, as well as 31 percent in CD6 to the south, 39 percent in CD3 to the west, and a stunning 57 percent of children received CHIP coverage in Corrine Brown's former …   More

the flog

Local Progressives Promise Governor, Legislature a ‘BLUE Wave’

This afternoon, as the state legislature listened to Governor Rick Scott tout the benefits of tax cuts and trumpet his administration's effect on the economy during his final State of the State address, a vastly different picture of Florida was being painted on the banks of the St. Johns River by a group of progressives. At a press conference billed as "Awake the State," one of nearly a dozen similar events across the state that took place simultaneously, local representatives from groups across a spectrum of issues presented a united front against much of the governor's agenda and record.

Calling Florida "one of the least upwardly mobile states in America," Pat McCollough, the Northeast Florida regional director of For Our Future, the issue advocacy group that organized the press conference, said, "After nearly two years of Rick Scott's policies, the rich have gotten richer, while over half of the counties in the state of Florida are stuck in a recession. Families have remained stagnant and nearly half the state would qualify as the working poor." A United Way study released earlier this year found that as of 2015, 45 percent of Floridian households had income levels classified as working poor.

Devin Coleman, subject of a 2017 Folio Weekly cover story, talked about New Florida Majority's efforts to collect the 766,200 verified signatures required to put a constitutional amendment on this year's ballot to automatically restore civil rights to citizens with non-violent felony convictions upon completion of their sentence. "As a result of the hard work throughout the state and the attention of the whole country, according to Florida Department of State Division of Elections, we currently have 669,000-plus verified signatures," he said, adding that he feels confident that they will collect enough signatures to put the amendment on the ballot.

In his State of the State address, Gov. Scott practically patted himself and Florida state House Speaker Richard …   More

THE FLOG

Winter REFLECTIONS

On Thursday, Dec. 28, The Second Floor played host to an event celebrating the release of a double EP by Jacksonville's Gabe Darling (Robi Rütenberg, they/them) - a songwriter, musician and audio engineer. The album artwork for The Sky's a Woman and Broken Teeth, and the backdrop aesthetics were created by artist Lily Kuonen.

The night began with a reading by Laura Chow Reeve. For her, 2017 was a significant year, bringing some life changes, including a move from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, and national recognition for her literary talents. She was a recipient of the 2017 PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers and her short story, 1,000-Year-Old Ghosts, was narrated by television personality LeVar Burton in his appropriately named podcast, LeVar Burton Reads.

Reeve read an excerpt from a new short story, which drew inspiration from her life in Northeast Florida. The story touched on her life as an Asian American, her first hurricane experience, and her employment at Sun-Ray Cinema. And although new to the region, she is proving to be a strong voice among Jacksonville's literary artists.

Yvette Angelique, a veteran of Jacksonville's poetry scene, was the next performer of the evening. She read from her debut book of essays, Complicated Truths: Emerging as Leader of a Whole Life. Her essay highlighted the dynamics that surround our personal identities, subject to the roles we play within our families, our communities, and society as a whole. Angelique's work challenges us to examine how we see ourselves in contrast to how others see us and dares to ask: 'Are we living a life out of duty or are we unapologetically pursuing our inner desires?'

The evening culminated with a performance by Darling. The singer was joined by a full band: cellist Naarah Strokosch, bassoonist Anthony Anurca, drummer Summer Wood and bassist Quinn Mellon. Rütenberg led the band with enchanting vocals while rotating among a variety of stringed and …   More

THE FLOG

Unsettling and UNCOMFORTABLE

 

Denis Bell is a Professor in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics at the University of North Florida. About five years ago, he started writing fiction, and since then has gone on to a solid reception from respected literary magazines including Grub Street.

For his "first feeble attempt" (his words) he decided to tackle the time travel paradox. Of this first effort he wrote "My first literary work. Not Kafka or Joyce, to be sure, but not bad, nonetheless [...] a few moths later I'm reading over [the story] for the umpteenth time, but the first time in a while, and I come to a revelation. It actually kind of sucks! "

Bell details this come-to-Jesus moment in the short story, Time Lapse, which is a part of the "flash fiction" collection A Box of Dreams recently published by Adelaide Books. Flash fiction is very short fiction--typically 1,000 words or less. The stories in this collection are unsettling and uncomfortable and brief; reading them is a nuanced, changing joy.

We caught up with Bell to chat about the book. These questions have been edited for space and clarity.

Folio Weekly: Do you find there is a connection between your profession and your writing? If so, how do you suss it?

Denis Bell: Somewhat surprisingly, I found that the skills that I acquired as a mathematical researcher have actually been very good preparation for the type of short fiction that I write. Things like economy of expression, intense focus on a central theme or idea, rapid movement from premise to conclusion...

Why write short stories?
I am an obsessive reviser, both before and even after publication. For this reason, I don't believe I could ever write a novel length work. I would never stop working on it!

There's a looseness to this collection, yet there's a kind of darkness that seems to be pervasive in many of the stories, can you touch on this?

For whatever reason, I have always been attracted to the dark …   More

THE FLOG

The Minutiae of INDIGNITY

Watching a Very Smart Brothas segment on Darth Beckys and Darth Susans (problematic, appropriative woman) the parallel between Christian--the lead character played by Cleas Bang in Ruben Östlund’s new Palme d’Or-winning film, The Square is clear. Christian, as the slimly handsome director of the X-Royal Museum in Sweden is consumed with a seeming harmless strain of insular narcissism that is gradually reveled to be something much more corrosive.

Östlund, whose credits include the critically lauded Play and Involuntary, co-wrote those movies with Erik Hemmendorff, but for The Square he is the sole auteur. And as he has previously done, he exhibits a willingness to craft sly, gorgeous, uncomfortable, scenes that cast the characters not just in an unflattering light, but a light that reveals who--at their core--they are. The result is the revelation that Christian is kind of a smug, lazy coward who “thinks an awful lot of himself,” in part because he is surrounded by a life and objects of excruciatingly good (reserved and nuanced) taste to prove it.

The plot of The Square ostensibly is very simple: museum director Christian has a new installation that he needs to generate publicity and buzz for. The piece, titled The Square is a square of space--outlined on the ground in the museum’s cobbled courtyard (formerly the spot upon which a “noble” horse and rider bronze statute stood upon a plinth) with a strip of lights. It is supposed to be a tiny arena: “a sanctuary of trust and caring ... within it we all share equal rights and obligations.” Though that’s a noble goal—and reminiscent of Marina Abromovic’s Rhythm 0 and Roman Ondák’s Swap, it’s hard to quantify, especially when the marketing dudes get involved.

It is thus, in the wake of the totally tacky publicity scheme, that Christian’s life takes a few turns that really are the …   More

the flog

Jay Fant: Let’s Legalize DISCRIMINATION Against LGBTQs

Jay Fant's hair might be "on fleek," as A.G. Gancarski has pointed out, but his politics seem to have come from another era. The member of the Florida House of Representatives and GOP candidate for state Attorney General has proposed legislation that would make it legal for businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Florida currently does not have legislation prohibiting such discrimination.

The so-called Free Enterprise Protection Act, House Bill 871, is modeled after the federal First Amendment Protection Act currently kicking around Congress, would prohibit the government from taking any "discriminatory action" against businesses that discriminate against LGBTQs. Under it, businesses would be free to deny employment based on a person being LGBTQ and to implement discriminatory employee or personnel benefits policies.

The act could potentially supersede local laws that prohibit discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression, such as the Jacksonville, St. Augustine Beach and Atlantic Beach human rights ordinances.

In a statement on Facebook, Fant admitted that he was inspired by the Supreme Court case involving a Colorado baker who refused to create a custom wedding cake on the grounds that the couple getting married was gay.

"I hope SCOTUS overturns this very bad ruling out of liberal Colorado, but I'm not sitting back to see what happens," he said on Facebook.

In a series of Tweets on Dec. 6, Fant further explained his compulsion to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ people, distributing such kernels of Fant-ian wisdom as, "Yesterday, SCOTUS began hearing a case with major implications for religious liberty and America. Praying they make the right decision and preserve the right of individual conscience."

And, "In Florida, we're not gonna sit around and leave liberty up to dispute. I filed HB 871, the Free Enterprise Protection Act, so business owners don't live in fear of social justice …   More

the flog

This is Fine: “Un-poetry” for the modern reader

Local author and owner of independent publishing house Broken Sword Publications Santino Rivera is back in the saddle again. His newest book, This is Fine, is a compilation of his poetry spanning the six years from 2011 to 2017, celebrating his love/hate relationship with the craft in his own self-proclaimed style of "un-poetry." Sometimes irreverent and always unconventional, Rivera spews thought onto paper in a way that he hopes will make his poetry palatable to even those who hate poetry-including him.

Rivera's relationship with poetry-loathing is succinctly explained in the book's intro, where he writes, "If Rodney Dangerfield were still alive, even he would get more respect than most poets. If someone asked what 100 poets on the bottom of the sea floor was, the overwhelming response would be: a good start. Save the lawyers, kill the poets, that's most people's motto."

Rivera even goes so far as to say that this may be his last foray into poetry. Yet for someone who seems to loathe something so much, Rivera doesn't seem to have lost much steam over those six years. A writer will always write. As Rivera continued in the intro, "Contrary to popular belief, poetry is an affliction, not a talent... I tried to quit poetry many times over the course of the past couple of decades, but it never took."

What started off as Denver street poetry during college--going around with a mobile PA system in the car doing free-verse spoken word at traffic lights--morphed into a career as a journalist with an independent newspaper he co-founded. After growing tired of covering committee meetings and local softball games, Rivera pulled up his roots to begin a career as an EMT/firefighter shortly after 9/11-writing poems and stories in the back of the ambulance between calls-which later morphed into his present life as an independent author/publisher.

This makes for what one might call a wealth of experiences--all of which he draws from in his work--and makes for an …   More

the flog

EXCLUSIVE: Folio Weekly Interviews @SanMarcoTrain

Since joining Twitter in April, San Marco Train has earned the ire of an audience far from the standstill in San Marco. No matter how slowly it moves, San Marco Train seems to beat Northeast Floridians to the crossing all the livelong day. The list of locals who have succumbed to the loquacious locomotive is as long as the 5 o'clock train.

As Folio Weekly owns the right-of-way to irreverence in the 904, and San Marco Train has parked its "resplendent"-its word, not ours-caboose right in the middle of our turf, we monitored the situation from a safe distance on the Northbank, where the Train could not keep us from press conferences, laser light shows and handbell choir performances. For a time, we were content to watch from the roadside as the Train inched ever so slowly into the collective view. Truth be told, some of us delighted in the audacity of the "Train: Make America Late Again @SanMarcoTrain #MALA" signs placed at its infamous crossings, and took a perverse sort of pleasure in the Twitter battles inspired by the forced stillness which characterizes trips to San Marco.

But eventually we reached an impasse. First the Train declared war on FW, accusing us of the theft of its signs and of owning Scarface posters. Then it came after the editor. This was a bridge too far. The crossing had come down. We could no longer idle silently as the Train delighted in making the people of San Marco miss meetings, lunch dates, birthdays, kickoffs, colonoscopies, happy hours and children's recitals. It was time for action.

Utilizing sleuthing skills honed over years covering sneaks, cheats and, slipperiest of all, hipsters, we tracked down the Train wreaking truancy across San Marco and beyond. The Train was at once receptive and evasive. Patience paid off and the Train permitted our inspection of its machinations on the condition that we not disclose the location of the interview. We can say that it was conducted during rush hour somewhere along its daily …   More

the flog

Is a Local Christian School Publicly Supporting Accused Sexual Predator Roy Moore?

The letterboard sign outside a local Christian school reportedly reads, "God Bless Judge Roy Moore/Give Him the Victory." An alert reader sent the above photo to Folio Weekly via email this morning, stating that it was taken at the Conservative Christian Academy on Old St. Augustine Road in Mandarin.

Republican Roy Moore is running for U.S. Senate in Alabama. Moore's campaign has recently become mired with accusations that he preyed on teen girls in the 70s and 80s, when he was a prosecutor in his 30s.

The Washington Post reports that the youngest alleged victim, Leigh Corfman, now 53, claims that Moore engaged in sexual conduct with her, including removing her pants and shirt and touching her genitals over her underwear, in 1979 when she was 14 years old. Moore was 32 at the time. Three other women, whose ages ranged from 16 to 18 at the time of the alleged encounters, told the Post that Moore took them on dates around the same time frame, but that it went no further than kissing.

When the story broke earlier this month, 70-year-old Moore told the Post, "These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign."

Additional women have come forward in the weeks since the Post published its initial report. This morning, the Today show reported that a total of nine women have accused Moore of sexual assault. There have also been reports that Moore was banned from the mall in Gadsden, Alabama (his hometown) for preying on young girls. Moore has repeatedly denied all allegations.

A man who answered the phone at the Conservative Christian Academy, who did not identify himself, said he does not know what the sign currently says. He told Folio Weekly that the sign is changed every Monday morning, and its content is a "mutual decision" by the ministry. He said that there are "various ministries" at the facility, but declined to say who specifically decides …   More