Objection to the Rule
OTR is a weekly news round table for Radio Free Brooklyn. When the coronavirus struck we started recording remotely and I produced features for the show.
Fixing the Internet by Building it
NYC Mesh is a community led internet non-profit. Using antennas and Occupy Wallstreet-like spontaneity they are creating their own internet by connecting networks to an IXP in the financial district.
Instead of using Spectrum or a traditional ISP, internet service provider, they are building their own path to the global internet and fostering community along the way.
It’s a tech heavy story about just how to create ‘nodes’ and networks but reveals larger themes about community, what the internet can be, and how movements can be organized and run.
First to Go and Last to be Restored
The Muse Brooklyn is a circus arts performance, practice, and teaching space. Before the coronavirus their 7,000 Sq foot warehouse was already difficult to finance.
Then the coronavirus made it impossible.
In the middle of this uncertainty Angela Buccinni-Butch walks us through what it’s like to lead a group of performers where every event, zoom class, or showcase feels like their swan song. Juggler and friend Luther Bangert helps me tell this story.
The Muse Brooklyn created a slideshow/video for this piece.
Silver Linings: Bread and Generosity.
The term silver lining has been used a lot to describe the unforeseen benefits of NYC’s coronavirus lockdown. Some get to see their kids more (those in crowed homes see their kids too much) and some people, actually a lot of people, have discovered bread making.
Tyisha Shaia always wanted to try bread making but never had the time. When the virus hit and she finally did she wasn’t alone. The local yeast supply run out. Tyisha called her mom for help and immediately she rose to the occasion and mailed 48 ozs of yeast to her daughter.
Tyisha couldn’t use all the yeast so one spring afternoon she gave it away. A portrait of the neighborhood was assembled: a sexual health worker draws comparisons to coronavirus denialism and the AIDS epidemic, a delivery driver counts his blessings, and Tyisha tells us why she, like her mom, instinctively decided to share her blessings.
‘My Brooklyn Died’
Lloyd Porter pulled off contradictions. Originally from California he embodied an old school Brooklyn while embracing the present. Perpetually hustling while at the same time pulling everyone up along with him.
He died from Covid-19.
Thomas Piper, a DJ, producer, and grieving friend of Lloyd Porter, laid out Lloyd’s impact on him and his philosophy. Lloyd had an impact on the who community, especially Piper. Before Lloyd died he record backing vocals for Thomas’s upcoming single ‘Just Us’, an optimistic rallying cry and a call for community organization.
Thomas lays out Porter’s anti-zero sum world view: that our successes add to everyone’s success.
Aaron got Covid-19 in early march before NYC became the world’s epicenter for the crisis. He’s a hilarious man with a giant laugh.
In this interview he recalls his experience through the illness, the unforeseen challenges of loosing your sense of taste, and his bureaucratic journey to become a plasma donor for an coronavirus antibody study.
More local features.
These have appeared on outlets like KFAI’s Catalyst, Greening Frogtown, and as special episodes of the podcast Your Eulogy. Some are basic profiles of people or businesses, some are a bit more experimental.
The Nordly: 11:44mins
The Nordly is a satirical news site for Minnesotans. Using the template perfected by The Onion The Nordly lampoons to local issues and culture while at the same time celebrating the community. Turns out, there’s no shortage of material. Minnesota is a weird place, and I’m glad to have it under the watchful eye of The Nordly.
Death Cafe: 7:36mins
Death Cafes are a global sensation. All over the world people meet up once a month to talk about that scary thing that happens at the end of our lives … even in this moment I’m scared to say the word … death. The twin cities Death Cafe focuses on disrupting that stigma, and they do it with generous treats, decent wine, and friendly people.
Corpse Flower: 6:25mins
Over the 2019 spring break at the University of Minnesota the Corpse Flower, Amorphophallus Titanum, decided to bloom. Not your normal bloom, when the Corpse Flower blooms it smells like rotting flesh. Many minnesotans gathered to see, and smell, this rare once a decade occurrence. All involved, the observes, botanists, and myself thought it was a strange and wonderful event.
The Radio Station in a Locker Room: 7:10mins
A radio piece on a radio station? Quite self-indulgent of you. Well … yes, but St. Paul Minnesota’s WFNU is a wonderful community station and deserves a nice seven minute shoat out.
Hunt for the Snowy Owl: 5:26mins
On a 10 degree overcast winter morning Michael Mann, no relation to the film director, took me birding. Mann is a life long birder and showed me the sounds and quiet beauty to the hobby. Mann is a poet and showed me that birding doesn’t have to be all check lists and binoculars, rather something more of a thoughtful observer letting the world show itself to you. But we did get some excitement when a fellow birder let it slide that a snowy owl had been spotted at the air port.
Tony’s Neighbor (And Why He Likes Him So Much): 5:51mins
Tony Schmitz co-publishes Greening Frogtown, a bi-monthly neighborhood paper. He sent me on assignment to interview a local advocate for seniors, Larry Paulson. To complete the feature I interviewed Tony about why he wanted me to interview Larry and what followed was wonderful piece about who we admire and what that says about us.
Joey Went to Cuba: 10:21
“Democracy looks like dictatorship”, explained Journalist Joey Peters. He recently went to Cuba and I interviewed him about it. This is a fun how-was-your-trip piece with some good Cuban/American history stuck in the middle: Cucs, side-hustles, Obama, Trump, and the Monroe Doctrine.
Dale and the Birds: 5:42mins
Here’s a small and quiet piece about my grandma. It’s an audio essay on how we think of/project onto our elders. But mostly, it’s just about a nice quiet moment with a wonderful person.
They Found the Boots!: 13:40mins
Friend and storyteller Joe Sullivan retells the mythical episode of his grandfathers near death experience. In WWII after his P-38 lightning fell to earth on the contested Island of Papau New Guinea Grandpa Sullivan had to escape the people stuck between America and Japan’s fight for control of the island.
MDQS, Matthew’s Dumb Quiz Show: 1940mins
This was an experiment I made for fun. In the style of Big Fat Quiz of the Year or Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! I bullied two friends with a trick questions, burning judgement and completely unresearched questions. It was pretty fun.