The Kudzu Kronicle

Because not all Southerners are the same

Author: kudzukid (page 2 of 7)

No Margaritaville in North Korea

I wasn’t exactly a world traveler when I joined The Fuller Center for Housing in June of 2011 — unless you count that one night in Windsor, Canada, when I nearly missed the last bus of the night back into Detroit. The bus went through a tunnel under the Detroit River, which I found a wee bit disturbing.

But one of my first tasks with The Fuller Center was to get myself a passport. The Fuller Center works all around the world — in faraway places like Nepal, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, India and a few African countries and a few relatively closer stops such as Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Peru. I didn’t get my passport to go to any of those countries at first. No, I needed to get a passport quickly because my first stop would be North Korea.

It’s hard to believe now, but The Fuller Center had developed an initiative to build 50 homes for families on a farm collective known as Osan-Ri, about 25 kilometers outside of Pyongyang. The plan was to send volunteer teams from the United States to work alongside the North Koreans to develop friendships and trust as much as simple, decent housing. It sprung from a dream Jubilee Partners’ Don Mosley pitched to Millard Fuller, the then-leader of The Fuller Center who saw nothing as impossible.

In the beginning, it seemed to be working. Even after Millard’s untimely passing in 2009, new President David Snell (still my boss today) carried on with the dream as best he could — making four trips to North Korea and bringing back a slew of images from the rogue nation. He was even there for the groundbreaking in 2009 alongside North Korean leaders and families in a festive, friendly atmosphere.

(Click here for my fascinating Q&A with David about his experiences in North Korea, complete with photos from his trips.)

As The Fuller Center’s new director of communications, I was tapped to visit the communist nation and document the progress of this unique project. I wanted to do something different that would capture attention for the work or possibly even go viral on them interwebs. I decided that I would take my colorful acoustic guitar and film myself playing and singing Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” in North Korea. I’m pretty sure that’s never been done. Continue reading

At last, a movie actually worth seeing at the theater — “Dunkirk”

As I explain in my column in today’s Ledger-Enquirer,  it’s very hard for me to find a movie worth two hours of my time or any amount of my money. So, what the critics say matters to me. I usually concur. That most certainly is the case with the World War II flick “Dunkirk,” which has garnered rave reviews.

It’s intense but not gory or gratuitous. Some folks who have been through conflict might find it a little too real, especially on the big screen with booming sound. Then again, as I mention in the column, my grandfather loved war movies despite the fact that he lost both of his legs to Nazi machine-gunners in Tunisia in 1943 while fighting as a member of the legendary Darby’s Rangers.

I don’t do movie reviews, so, in short, go see it. Also, at the end of today’s column, I mentioned First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s two accounts of meeting with my granddad — Cpl. Fred Dixon — during his rehabilitation at Walter Reed in her “My Day” syndicated newspaper column. Here are those two links:

Eleanor Roosevelt’s February 21, 1944 column

Eleanor Roosevelt’s February 25, 1944 column

John McCain, Bill Bradley and what could have been in 2000

With all of the hullabaloo accompanying the craziness of the Bush v. Gore general election of 2000, people often forget about the two runners-up in the primary season — Sen. John McCain on the Republican side and Sen. Bill Bradley with the Democrats. I longed for these two distinguished, principled men to face off in an election that they vowed— in a written, signed compact, mind you — that would be about the actual issues without special interests dictating the discussions.

Bradley

I truly believe that those two men could have mostly lived up to their promise of a principled general election campaign — although whether they really could have is a moot point since Howdy Doody and a talking tree got the party nods. I hate that we never got to see that McCain v. Bradley campaign materialize, and politics has gotten uglier ever since. Citizens United threw even more gasoline on that fire.

They had very different views. Bradley’s big issues were universal health care (looks like he was a little ahead of his time on that one) and gun control, while McCain was focused on a strong defense and bucking the political establishment and D.C. power brokers. It would have been interesting — and we would have been much better off with either of them as president.

I don’t agree with many of his political views, but I respect Sen. McCain as a war hero (yes, Mr. Multiple Deferment Trump, McCain is a war hero) and as a principled politician, not a pandering demagogue.  More than once during the 2008 campaign against Barack Obama he put his own supporters in their place when they said they were “scared” of Obama or accused him of being Muslim or being born in Kenya.

(By the way, I always wondered why Obama’s parents would have put a birth announcement in the Honolulu newspapers if he were born in Kenya; perhaps they were laying the groundwork for his presidential campaign from day one.) Continue reading

Hurry up and land this #$%@! plane!

I have mixed feelings about cussin’. Some of you might know it better as cursing, swearing or using foul language, but down South we refer to it as cussin’ — if you do it right, anyway.

There are 26 letters in the alphabet, every one of them perfectly acceptable letters. Yet, you can use five of them to refer to a male body part and have it found perfectly acceptable, but use four of them to describe the same body part and you’re an uncouth slimeball. Who decided that that those five letters are fine but the other four letters are evil? How can one set of letters be wrong if you’re talking about the exact same thing?

I have no idea who got to decide what is cussin’ and what is acceptable language, but there are times when cussin’ is appropriate. For instance, when you stub your toe on the chest of drawers at 4 a.m. on your way to the bathroom, “gosh that smarts” just doesn’t cut it.

I’ve worked with goody-two-shoes folks who think “dang” is a vulgar word, and I’ve worked with people who could use the F-word as all nine parts of speech. And, yes, I know there are supposedly only eight parts of speech, but that’s how good my old boss was at cussin’. RIP, Larry.

I’ve heard it all. Anybody who has ever been a seventh-grade boy knows that a middle school boys bathroom is the most vulgar place on the planet. Those boys may not know what all the words mean, but they’ve heard them and, by golly, they’re gonna use them.

I also spent many years as a sports writer. Not only are most locker rooms filled with vulgarity, but I’ve learned many new cuss words from angry coaches over the years — some directed at players, some at referees and a significant amount at myself. Then there are comedians who can use vulgarity in clever ways or to make a point, although far too many comedians today use it as a crutch in place of actual humor. Most Americans are too easily entertained to be able to tell the difference.

But I have found a place where I don’t want to hear cussin’, and that’s on a plane. On Friday, I had a relatively short flight but was one of the last to board because I changed flights at the last minute. Not only did I have to fight for overhead bin space, but I had to take the last available seat — and I was surrounded by members of a soccer team.

Soccer is a fine sport, though not one I’m in which I’m interested. Any game that can regularly end in a 0-0 tie is not for me. But I’ve never had anything against soccer players. I even had my son try it when he was just 4 years old, but he wasn’t real sure why everyone was running around while he was talking to his imaginary friend.

“Who’s he talking to?” a parent would ask.

“Cassie from ‘Dragon Tales,’” I’d explain nonchalantly. “Duh.”

The problem was that the soccer players on the plane were all boys of about 15 years of age, and far more immature than any other 15-year-olds I’ve been around. They were more immature than kids who watched “Dragon Tales” cartoons. Everything was F-this and F-that as if they had just discovered the word. That same word could be found throughout the book I was reading, but it’s far more palatable in silent reading than from loudmouthed kids in close quarters.

Fortunately, the flight was just over an hour, so I managed to survive. Thank goodness I was able to get to my truck and play a little soft jazz on the way home. It was so peaceful. Well, at least until I hit a traffic jam cause by road construction.

“#%&!” I yelled after it took me 45 minutes to go about 2 miles.

That, by the way, is perfectly acceptable cussin’. As for the boys on that soccer team, I hope that the next time they take the field that they #%&ing lose!

Snowflakes are getting a bum rap

I’ve seen a lot of words used to lump a whole lot of folks into one category in America based upon their political views or cultural leanings.

A popular one with right-wingers is “lib-tard” to describe anyone who views are anywhere to the left of Ann Coulter — which would include everyone from Bernie Sanders to Jesus to Richard Nixon, none of whom are conservative enough in today’s America. (See chart below)

Folks on the left like to throw out words like fascist to describe today’s right-wingers who seem anti-immigrant, ultra-nationalist and OK with discrediting the media if it counters the propaganda their regime prefers, now even cheering physically attacking the media. And while a lot of fascist principles may apply — including giving so much power to corporations and adoration for a single leader — we haven’t quite followed in Hitler’s footsteps.

But there’s a new term that both sides — and those seven of us left in America’s middle — like to throw around: snowflake. It doesn’t sound so menacing. I mean, it takes an awful lot of snowflakes to cause a problem unless you’re an Atlantan trying to drive in an accumulation of more than two snowflakes.

Unfortunately, when you hear the term snowflake today, you don’t think of Frosty the Snowman, snowball fights or Bing Crosby singing holiday songs. You now equate the term snowflake with whiny people who melt when confronted with opposing viewpoints.

Folks on the right’s favorite target to call snowflakes are college students — or as their foes likely refer to them, “kollege stoodents.” They are convinced that if you walk onto a campus of 25,000 students, 24,998 of them are huddled in some safe room where they don’t have to hear conservative viewpoints, while the other two students are falsely accusing some poor drunken frat boy of assault. Continue reading

Ode to Vladimir Putin

There once was a despot named Putin
For Donald Trump he clearly was rootin’
So he assembled a team
And hatched up a scheme
To fool the fools who were doin’ the choosin’

We’ll invent a few stories to start
Even try to make him look smart
If he appears to be bruised
We’ll call it “fake news”
And summon our friends at Breitbart

Alex Jones will lie with impunity
And El Rushbo will scare the community
We’ll feed the insanity
With the aid of Sean Hannity
And make sure that Mike Flynn has immunity

With the help of Devin Nunes
Who sits on the lap of the prez
We’ll keep on disputin’
Any connection to Putin
And deny anything the New York Times says

Without Hillary life is much sweeter
That’s why I had to defeat her
I needed no spies
Just had to spread lies
To those who believe in a Tweeter

With them in an ignorant haze
Their demise is a matter of days
It won’t be from fake news
But the starvation they choose
After tossing all their microwaves.

 

This story is a lot of bull

Rarely do I share news involving the term “rectal reconstruction.” It’s not so much that I find the concept itself so disturbing but more that it reminds me of my old punk rock band, Rectal Reconstruction. We opened a few shows for the Butthole Surfers back in the 1990s.

Every now and then, we hear a story of a matador getting gored during a bullfight. Fans of this activity crowd arenas and yell things like “¡ole!” and “¡corn dog, por favor!” while animal lovers root for the bull.  On Monday, the bull won. He didn’t merely gore a bullfighter in Mexico. He gored him in the anus. Unbeknownst to the matador, he was fighting Mexico’s undisputed Pin the Tail on the Donkey champion.

That’s right, the matador got John Holmes’d when 11.8 inches of bull horn violently checked him for polyps. Nothing alarming was found, but I doubt the matador will be tooting his horn about that anytime soon.

And, yes, I know the image at the top is the Chicago Bulls’ logo. This just might be the best bull highlight of the year … although the rest of their opponents this NBA season are likely to dive out of the way the next time a bull drives to the basket.

There’s more on this story at SB Nation. 

Two books by the same person, but two different writers

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had two new paperbacks hit the market — a novel by Bo Hunter and a collection of humor columns by Chris Johnson, the same guy but two very different writers.

Bo Hunter was actually the pen name I used when I first began writing humor columns in Americus, Ga., back in 1995. I was a sports writer and news editor back then, so I wrote those columns under not just a pen name but with a disguised column mug. I didn’t want folks who hated the sports writer to hate the columns on that basis. Some liked Chris Johnson, some liked Bo Hunter, and I’m sure a fair share hated both of them.

Anyway, I wrote columns under my real name — that’s Chris Johnson for those of you keeping score — when I started penning weekly articles in 1998 in Columbus for the Ledger-Enquirer. In 2000, I was in a car wreck that knocked me out of work for a few weeks, so I wrote a novel in the meantime to keep myself semi-sane. I called it “Oya’s Wake” and did nothing with it for many years. Then, a few years ago, I decided to offer it up as an e-book for Kindle but published it under Bo Hunter. It was simply too different from my usual writing to publish under my name.

Now, at last, it’s in paperback, and you can order it from Amazon for $8.99 at this link. There won’t be any book-signings for this one, at least not until they make a movie out of it.

Meanwhile, just yesterday, the follow-up to “The Best of Chris Johnson, Volume I” went on sale in paperback on Amazon. It’s titled “Wastin’ Away Again on Margaritahill” with the shocking subtitle “The Best of Chris Johnson, Volume II.” Yes, I amaze my own self with such creativity. You can get that in paperback for $9.99 at this link.

Volume II features 118 columns that generated the most feedback — sometimes including anger — over the past six years or so.

If you order one, be sure to leave a review with Amazon. If you order both, well, you’re just weird to like both of those guys.

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