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Somewhat Social Media, ‘Underground Journalism’ At Mizzou

April 28th, 2014 · Tags:Arts · Cities · Wi-Fi



Man I hope that some day, I get money for being crazy … just like Gary Busey in that Amazon commercial where he talks to his devices. Until then, I just be all crazy for no good reason … other than just trying to stay entertained on The Dirty Gig.


This week the disaster recovery assignment (Dirty Gig) is more of a rescue operation in the underbelly of academia. I have joined the team of a great group of college library folks who are transporting a few hundred thousands books from one storage facility to another. Interesting to see the metamorphosis … library science people transforming into logistics types with pallets, stretch wrap and forklifts and stuff.


But “this ain’t my first ‘equestrian event.’” The Dirty Gig has taken me to storage facilities from DC to NZ. Storage is storage … pretty much.


Most interesting on this job, we are working about 100 feet under the ground in an old quarry that has been turned into warehouse space. It’s called SubTera … ha … the name was a spoiler. In Kansas City a few months back, we had an underground storage area we dubbed “Man Cave.” Too obvious, we need a better hashtag for this hole in this granite-encapsulated hole in the ground. I scanned my memories of TV and film trying to think of something. First … all I could come up with was The Cavern (from a memorable WWII Nazi film featuring John Saxon and yes, Dallas’ Larry Hagman.)


The Cavern


There’s always Bat Cave … too easy too. We have seen bats, however …


Ah. How ‘bout “The Infinite Abyss” … for the “Garden State” cult film fans out there. I.A. it is!


Most cool in the Infinite Abyss … an excellent Wi-Fi hookup throughout the facility. I have a couple of laptops fired up — one for tracking boxes and pallets and trucks — complete with an LED barcode scanner handheld that lets me pretend I am playing Duck Hunt on barcodes … the second laptop for updating my social media stati during breaks. Kind of getting spoiled by the fast connections …


Right off the bat (pun) The Infinite Abyss Wi-Fi gets 7 glorious, spelunking pings — perfect.


But despite the Wi-Fi and shooting up the barcodes with a digital scanner laser thingy … there is a little bit of tedium in putting some 300K books in boxes. Who knew?


Ha … after a few days, the pallet packers moved to another part of the Infinite Abyss, while I stayed tucked away on the other end, scanning and wrapping pallets. Every time i work on one of these projects that involve so much packing and shipping and trucking, I always think of freight train songs … even though we use trucks. Don’t ask me why. And for some reason this crazy song always pops into my head … “Chicken Train.” Maybe i had it on my mind because I saw a sign for Ozark Missouri on my trip here. The song — probably an example of hillbillies on acid — is by The Ozark Mountain Daredevils from nearby Springfield, Missouri. So … any who. I have been working secluded for a while, singing “Chicken Train” as the top of my lungs every time a pallet jack gets loaded, or a forklift swings into action … just being silly … thinking it makes sense because as the song says “the chicken train takes the chickens away …” Just like a truck is going to take away our pallets … ha. I got busted though, singing so crazy … they told me not to give up either one of my day jobs.




Otherwise we pass the time with tales of travel, forklift/safety training, musicology and the like. My knew friend co-worker and I have already covered motorcycle love and now our friendship has moved on to sharing iPhone eclecticism.


G, we’ll call him, has turned me on to some nice Celtic, worldbeat tunes from Green Man. Nice. I fired back with some somewhat obscure jazz guitar work by Les Dudek. (Yes Les D. was married to Cher, but then who wasn’t?) And … just for comic relief I fired up that desert cowboy, weird ocarina-like western movie tune — the theme from “Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo” a.k.a. “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” — music by Hugo Montenegro. I am guessing you may have heard this as someone’s ring tone, but not in their iTunes collection … until now.


I never guessed this gunfighter classic was going to cause trouble. It’s a good thing G and I both were not carrying concealed barcode scanners. 🙂


What started as a friendly conversation about music, digressed into an argument about Spaghetti Westerns. From The GTB&TU we made the natural progression to Sergio Leone’s other pasta classic “Once Upon A Time In The West.” I couldn’t believe my new friend had the audacity to say that “OUATITW” (one of my all-time favorites) was proof “that Henry Fonda needed money.” I of course maintain that Fonda jumped at the chance to play a bad guy for once. (The film introduced Charles Bronson and also had nice work by Jason Robards and Claudia Cardinale …)


Anywho … oh the things we come up with to pass time on The Dirty Gig.


I have also spent more than a minute perusing the book racks, on a quest for that most obscure title. I have seen some interesting ones — but mainly law library stuff with case law from every state and many other countries … lots of books on cancer, bone surgery and German language books on this and that. There are many manuals on how to operate a Sherman tank??? Glad to know someone is collecting this stuff. Ha .. I saw one book called Hitler’s Sword or something like that. Opened it up. Almost ever sentence in the book was underlined. Wonder if they hated it or loved it???


I “read” several books that translated Egyptian hieroglyphics into German … pretty Indiana Jones-esque, wouldn’t you say? … Perhaps the most interesting or certainly the most applicable to the Dirty Gig was a title about floods, fires, tornadoes, earthquakes and that sort of thing.



Our National Calamity of Fire, Flood and Tornado — Perfect for a disaster relief traveler …


Man, what a downer … let me share some of the climate change noteworthier from the table of context: “The Greatest Cataclysm In American History,: “ The Devastation Of Columbus,” “The Flooding of Cincinnati,” “The Devastation Of Omaha,” “The Death-Dealing Tornado At Omaha,” “The Blizzard At Omaha,” “The Flood In West Virginia,” “The Flood And Tornado in Kentucky,” etc., etc., etc.


Digging deeper, I found this poem:


The Unleashed Gods

By Percy Shaw

Iron and rock are our slaves;

We are liege to marble and steel;

We go our ways through our purse-proud days,

Lifting our voices in loud self praise —

Forgetting the God at the wheel.


We build our bulwarks of stone,

Skyscraper and culvert and tower,

Till the God of Flood, keen-nosed for blood,

Drags our monuments into the mud

In the space of a red-eyed hour.


… more of same …


And from where/when did this book of climate change originate?



A book on the disastrous weather calamities of 1913! Interesting.


On a lighter note … I had been on the job a couple of days when it occurred to me that Mizzou is pretty much the Mecca of college journalism, so i should search for journalism books and see if any of my old buddies checked them out, back in the day. Several friends and colleagues are Mizzou J School grads … some from The Amarillo Globe News where I started my professional writing … some from The Fort Worth Star-Telegram where I pushed story ideas back in the day. But, maybe my buddies didn’t read as much as they should have … Couldn’t find their names in the old school checkout cards in the journalism books.


I kept looking through the racks … laid my hands on a 8-10 book collection of Vic Hugo’s Les Misérables and other works … leather bound, artistic plates inside protected with onion-skin slips, dusty … really old. Pretty cool. They would look good in my library …


And then I saw these oversized books called Savitar. What, pray tell is a Savitar? I Googled. It is hard to say. There is Google item about about a comic book super hero, and another related search term, spelled similarly, that is a Hindu god. Wonder which the Mizzou Tigers had in mind?


Well .. I opened several of these dusty Savitars from the 1980s. The Savitar was the college yearbook back in the day. No … I could not find the heralded 1986 version featuring underclassman, Sigma Chi Brad Pitt. No doubt, those copies have probably disappeared. However, in three editions in the 1980s, I did find a former colleague from The Amarillo Globe News. No, it was not the editor, Garet Von Netzer, a sports writer who became editor of the paper — side note: Garet VN not only wrote about my high school basketball exploits, he was also my first boss in journalism.) Nope, no Garett VN.



However, I found MG who, after Mizzou, went on to write at the Amarillo daily … years before he covered The White House for Fox and now for CBS. There among the other “Fiji Islanders” … the men of Phi Gamma Delta, in one shot wearing a pith helmet … ha … is White House veteran, author Major Garret. Shout out!


Major Garrett On PingWi-Fi


No “Nishi” from The Star-Telegam🙁


Fun game … My research continues. Haven’t found Kappa Alpha Theta Sheryl Crow yet … but haven’t looked.


The college town and the big frat and sorority houses have increased awareness of the Greek system here, thus the references … not to mention I had a visit from a guy from my old fraternity. Ha … He is my other brother Kent.


Here are some other famous peeps that may or may not be among the dusty pages of these Savitars:


Notable Mizzou Tigers


And like I was saying, when we are not in each others’ faces about Clint Eastwood films, we all get along pretty well on this project … especially since three of us all ride bikes. Instant common denominator … however, we can’t seem to agree on anything. All of use whipped out iPhone photos of our bikes. G has a really nice, fully-dressed Honda Goldwing. Burt has a nice, clean, blue Harley Davidson Sportster … and me — right in the middle between Asia and America with the British made Triumph (of which I so often am proned to pontificate.)


Ha of course the Harley rider and the Triumph rider had to give the Honda rider a hard time and use the much dreaded nickname, and apologies stereotypical term “rice burner.” All in good fun … and this would come up again on the day we proclaimed Haiku Thursday. Yes … we strive to amuse ourselves. My new friend grinned ear-to-ear when I printed this new little poem for him, written in the 17-syllable tradition (5-7-) of the Japanese art form … just for him:


I Ride Forklift Now

I’d Rather Be On Honda

Forklift Burns Rice Too.


Oh well … back to work.


Know what I sayin?