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the flog


The text came at 10:44 p.m. "Go get your flu vaccine," she says, and here we go. It's winter in America again, which means that Flu Hysteria is once again a thing. This happens every year, as the alarmists and the anti-vaxxers administer verbal lashings to each other, all sides armed with dodgy statistics, launching volleys of vitriol, armed with stockpiles of stories from questionable media sources. But this year is a little different, in that there just might be something to it. Or not. I really have no idea-nor, it seems, does anyone else.

This year's flu follies occur against a backdrop of exceptional weirdness, as documented in the global press. The daily paper in Hong Kong, "The Standard," reported on Jan. 11 that the "flu has been on the rise in recent weeks." You never want to see the flu rising, because that's where your nose and mouth are; it's always best to keep it down near the floor. They cite Chinese National Influenza Center (whose annual holiday party, it must be said, is no fun at all), which counted 11,253 cases of flu, a 46 percent increase from the previous week's total of 7,730. Chinese state media reports that "medical organs" (no jokes, please) are being put on alert in case current trends accelerate.

Those numbers don't look good, but the population density can skew our perception of them. So how are things looking in places that don't have a billion people? Well, not so good. Scotland, population 5.4 million, has seen a 75 percent increase in flu cases at the start of the year. The BBC, which is generally quite reliable (unless they're talking-or, not talking, as the case may be-about the massive child-molestation scandal involving their own personnel) cites Health Protection Scotland, which raised the country's flu status from "normal" to "moderate." A 75 percent increase of flu cases in one week, and that's "moderate"? That, right there, is why we all love the Scottish as much as we do.

There were 107 reported cases of …   More

the flog

Kick A WOMAN When She’s Down: Tweeters Celebrate Corrine Brown Going to Prison

Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown is required to turn herself in to prison by noon today. As television crews wait outside the gates of Federal Correctional Institution, Coleman, the Central Florida prison where it has been widely reported she will serve a five-year term for her role in the sham charity One Door for Education, a small contingency is taking quite a bit of pleasure in her fate.


Here are some Tweets that caught our eye: 




Ain't humanity grand?


Update: Corrine Brown reported to prison. She did not arrive in the manner that this Tweeter seemingly preferred.



Sofar, So GOOD

People in the business of presenting live music typically take a maximalist approach to promoting, using every means at their disposal, from flyers to radio ads and everything in between, with modern times seeing a growing emphasis on social media, which has become both ubiquitous and indispensable in the music business. Sofar Sounds, on the other hand, goes minimalist, which you can see for yourself on Friday night, Jan 19. Or maybe you can't.

"Intimate secret gigs in 397 cities, all around the world" is how the website touts their brand. The gimmick has its genesis in 2009 London, when Dave Alexander played for eight people in a flat shared by Rafe Offer and the appropriately named Rocky Start. From there, things progressed faster than Tim Tebow's baseball career, and now "Sofar Sounds is a community of thousands of artists, hosts, fans, travelers and more, putting on hundreds of secret, intimate events per month, across more than 350 cities around the world," and a global staff of more than 60. There are nine core cities with full-time staff: New York City, London, Chicago, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Dallas/Fort Worth, Oslo and Madrid. Beyond that, basically all cities have hosted these gigs-and, now, even ours!

On Jan. 19, Jacksonville will become the 397th city to host a Sofar Sounds event, the third in Florida, after Orlando and Gainesville. At this writing I (having already committed to attending) have no idea who's playing, where they'll be playing, or how much tickets will cost-all of which is by design. I was sent a link to the event page; its delightful ambiguity instantly piqued my interest. All it said was that it's BYOB, which presumably means "Bring Your Own Beer," but, like a good presidential ad-lib, the meaning is left open to interpretation. You apply for tickets online, and your name is entered into a lottery; selected winners will get an email telling them they're invited, at which point they can purchase tickets for themselves …   More


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



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


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 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