Author Archives: Shelton Hull

About Shelton Hull

I'm a writer/journalist with over 20 years experience covering all types of subject-matter, with a specialization in politics, music, food and dance. My work has been published in nearly 40 different magazines, newspapers, websites and zines, in addition to occasional forays into radio, TV and spoken-word. Former candidate for City Council District 14 in Jacksonville, FL (2011), and a proud member of Gator Nation.

Notes on Press Freedom and the Special Election in Montana

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The folks defending Greg Gianforte for assaulting that reporter should remember that 79 journalists died on the job last year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 18 of whom were murdered, often in broad daylight, and almost always without legal repercussions. We’ve already seen the deaths of ten journalists in seven countries so far this year, and that number is sure to increase.

We’ve had a mayor downstate openly boast about pointing a machine gun loaded with blanks at reporters last week, and one of Trump’s staff joked about him using a sword against the White House press corp–a ceremonial sword gifted from a country that has no freedom of the press whatsoever. There’s nothing funny about any of it, especially given his documented connections to a foreign government that has itself been implicated in the murders of several journalists in recent years.

Our president has referred to the media as “the enemy of the people”, mocked a handicapped journalist on the campaign trail, had reporters physically removed from his events, and openly suggested to his then-FBI director having others locked up for reporting on his own abuses of power, which is a real thing that has happened multiple times in this country over the years.

On local and state levels, countless journalists have been attacked, stalked, doxxed and threatened, including right here in my own hometown. Numerous journalists sit behind bars all over the world for doing their job, and several outlets have had to shut down because of attrition due to violence.

I don’t know much about Gianforte or his opponent, Rob Quist and I won’t pretend to have any special insight about the internal politics of their state, but this contest is now a national issue, with direct implications for the entire industry. If Gianforte wins, the voters of Montana will be on-record as having signed off on a dangerous dynamic that undermines our democracy and the people’s ability to get the information they need to make informed decisions about their lives–and they know it.

Personally, I’ve been slapped, punched, spit on, threatened, shot at with BB guns, had knives and guns pulled on me–and that’s just from exes, LOL. But seriously, I don’t begrudge any of the heat I’ve gotten, because I work a particularly ruthless and hyperbolic style that entails saying extremely controversial things about extremely dangerous people. If anything tragic ever happens to me, it will probably be at least somewhat my fault. But my concern is for the decent, impartial working journalists who walk the straight and narrow path and do their best to call it right down the middle–the kind of people who will still give those scumbags the benefit of the doubt, despite everything.

This escalating trend of violence and intimidation against journalists here and around the world needs to stop. Voters in Montana need to make a firm stand, today, right now. If they don’t, the consequences could be truly horrifying. And if you think I’m making mountains our of molehills, I’ve got two words for you: “Charlie Hebdo”…

French, Licked: the Certain Uncertainly of May 7

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Having just heard about the tragic passing of Corrine Erhel, a French socialist politician who suffered a fatal heart attack while stumping for Emmanuel Macron on Cinco de Mayo, one’s first instinct is to view her death as a tragic omen for the cause she died in support of. With the final round of France’s national elections wrapping up May 7, the reasonable possibility of an upset win by Marine LePen and her National Front (FN) means that Erhel, who was only 50, may go down as merely the first to perish in the wake of a vote whose results will likely be cataclysmic for her country, no matter who wins.

While superstition is ultimately just that, it’s tempting to indulge such sentiment, given the recent sequence of events. Erhel’s death was immediately preceded by news of—believe it or not—massive hacking of Macron’s emails, the leaking of which was smartly timed to coincide with the legally mandated two-day period of silence before the vote. It’s an interesting quirk of their parliamentary system, one that would be intolerable in the United States, whose politicians can hardly be compelled to shut up, even when they’re asleep.

And they are certainly asleep, figuratively if not necessarily literally, although there can be little doubt that any number of our leading politicians are so heavily pilled-up that they need help tying their own shoes and neckties, to say nothing of reading the legislation being foisted upon them on an almost weekly basis early on in the Trump Era. Indeed, when the president’s controversial (to say the least) health-care plan passed earlier this week, by the narrowest of margins, despite ample partisan cushion, it was attended almost immediately by reports that some members of Congress had not bothered to read the very legislation that their historical reputations are now intractably tethered to. At least one of them actually admitted this on television, which strikes me as something other than the behavior of someone who is acting in their right mind.

The elections in France are being touted as a critical indicator of the trajectory of western politics in the new reality, and while it’s easy enough the parallels to events in the US in Europe, it’s worth remembering that the French are famously unpredictable. After all, the idea of the National Front getting anywhere near the runoff was openly scoffed at, as recently as a month ago. No one in proper political circles would’ve guessed that the hard-right, with all their bluster and bully tactics, would be capable of finishing as strongly as they did, let alone that their momentum would only continue in the interregnum. The LePen family has been flirting with fanaticism for years, with the father put out to pasture by his own daughter, who herself has struggled to achieve even basic credibility.

The struggle is real—at least, it was. Now she’s so credible that the political establishment is having night-sweats all weekend. Tensions are high, and so are the figureheads; in café society, the SSRIs are flowing free like fine wine, with blood soon to follow, perhaps. After watching the police torched with Molotov cocktails on May Day, it’s hard to conceive of any scenario in which the nation is not at least partially in flames within days. If Macron wins, as currently projected, the FN and its adherents will likely respond with violence. If LePen wins, violence is guaranteed. No matter who wins, the majority of French citizens will be not only dissatisfied, but terrified for the future of their country. This is not their first rodeo. They are firmly aware of the worst-case scenario. Good luck to them!

Bromancing the Stone: Roger Stone dishes on Trump, Florida and political combat

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“They may call me a dirty trickster. I’m a real partisan; I’ve got sharp elbows. But there’s on thing that isn’t in my bag of tricks: treason.” Roger Stone has never backed away from a fight; indeed, he almost relishes starting them. Stone has been a human melee weapon, wielded to great effect in some of the biggest political brawls of the past half-century, dating back to his earliest years in the crucible that was the Nixon White House.

“1968 and 2016 were very similar, in many ways,” he says. “Just as leaders, Donald Trump and Nixon are similar. They’re both really pragmatists, neither is an ideologue, they’re both essentially populists with conservative instincts. … Both of them are very persistent, both of them had to come back from disaster.” The opposition is praying for further disaster, and they may well get their wish. To that end, Stone is one of several Trump affiliates under investigation for their dealings with various foreign nationals whose efforts helped facilitate Trump’s victory.

Stone’s newest book, “The Making of the President 2016: How Donald Trump Orchestrated a Revolution” (Skyhorse Publishing) lifts its title from the seminal series written every four years between 1960 and 1980 by journalist Theodore H. White (1915-1986), a quintessential DC Beltway insider who is, no doubt, spinning in his grave as we speak. One can’t help but view this choice as high-level trolling of the first order, which is his forte.

The subtitle is cunningly phrased, as every conceivable meaning of the words “orchestrated” and “revolution” seem to fit in this case. Speaking of which, Stone’s book notes the crucial role of one revolution—that waged in the Democratic primary by Bernie Sanders—in helping foreshadow the future president’s. “In many ways, Trump and Bernie, they’re riding the same wave. Donald’s voters think these trade deals have fucked America, and Bernie’s voters think these trade deals have fucked America. … And also, new voters: Both Trump and Bernie Sanders attract new voters in the primaries. It’s just more people upset about the so-called ‘rigged system’. Bernie rags constantly about the corruption and the power of Wall Street; so does Trump. So I think they’re very similar.”

This similarity was noted early on, and was key to Trump’s victory, according to Stone. “In order to win, Trump had to win three of ten Sanders voters, and he did.” Despite being a nominal frontrunner, Hillary Clinton was burdened with a top-heavy hierarchical campaign, largely disconnected from political reality. For all her billions spent, that money was squandered on failed strategies and poor logistics, reaching a peak as Trump barnstormed battleground states in the closing days, while Hillary had already begun taking victory laps. The Clintons expended so much time and energy fending off the Sanders insurgency that they never really got a handle on what awaited them in the general.

“I think they made the exact same mistake as did Jimmy Carter,” says Stone, who worked for Ronald Reagan in 1980. “The Clintons misunderstood Trump’s appeal. They didn’t think that his simple messaging would be credible; they didn’t understand that Trump talks more like average people than elites. The underestimated both his skill as a candidate, they underestimated his skill as a communicator, and they underestimated his ability to land a punch.”

When Trump first declared for president in 2015, there was almost no one who thought the man had any chance at all—except for Stone, who had raised the very possibility as early as 1988, when he arranged a meeting between Trump and his earliest political benefactor, Richard Nixon. “It certainly seemed possible to me, but let’s recognize that I’m a professional political operative, and I had at that point nine individual presidential campaigns in which I’m playing a senior role as experience. Plus I’ve known Donald Trump for 39 years; I have a very keen knowledge of his management style, his style on the stump, so I understand a lot of the basis of his appeal. … Trump is a giant, and he ran against a lot of career politicians who were essentially pygmies.”

As usual, Florida was a decisive factor in the election, and Stone expects that to continue in 2018. “Florida has proven once again to be the ultimate purple state. It truly is a state that’s always competitive in a presidential race, and less competitive, leaning slightly Republican, in a non-presidential race. The Democrats in Florida, because they have been out of power in the legislature so long, and because they have (generally-speaking) not done well in local offices, they really have no bench. They are yet to come up with a candidate who is a viable candidate for governor. It’s WAY too early to try to determine how Trump’s candidacy will impact the Florida electorate; it’s an entirely open question. Trump could be exceedingly popular, if he sticks to his agenda and gets things done by the mid-terms, or he could be unpopular, theoretically, for any number of reasons. But in politics, a year is a lifetime.”

Speaking of Florida, 2018 will be the first year in nearly three decades in which the shadow of Jeb Bush will not be blanketing the states political landscape, and by Stone’s reckoning, you can thank Trump for putting our former governor into permanent retirement. “If Jeb had stayed in the race, and there had been another debate, Trump was prepared to say, ‘Jeb, the [FDLE] had over 22 individual tips about the 9/11 hijackers training in Sarasota; you seem to have done nothing with that information. Don’t you think you could have stopped the attack on America if you had actually done something?’ That was coming, and I think Jeb knew it was coming, and of course that’s all documentable. Only Trump would’ve had the courage to do something like that.”

Today, at 64, Stone is prepping for what may be his biggest fight to date, waged on behalf of his good friend, President Donald J. Trump, whose election was somewhat controversial, to say the least. Although Stone has not officially worked for Trump since last fall, he remains very much in the mix, as far as the president’s wider circle of advisors and adjutants. Indeed, the fact is that the very idea of Donald Trump as POTUS originates in the always-fertile mind of Roger Stone, who never stops thinking of new angles and novel approaches to shaking up the political status quo. Of course, a lot of folks really wish he would stop, but after last year, that seems unlikely.

Whereas most folks tend to get all shy and introspective when talk of subpoenas begins, Stone is embracing his opportunity to face off with congressional Democrats before a live, mainstream audience. Having served in the White House under presidents Nixon and Reagan, Stone is by no means a stranger in Beltway circles, but his appearance at the Capitol will mark, for many national observers, their initial introduction to a man that, without whom, everything would be different today.

Stone has still not appeared before Congress at press-time, but he has made no secret of his enthusiasm. “They dragged my name through the mud in a public hearing. Several statements made by members were just flatly incorrect, others were chronologically out of order, and still others were written in such a pejorative way that I must have the opportunity to take that language and re-tell it my way, and then bitch-slap the member for his partisanship. … Here’s my proposal: Waive your congressional immunity, so I may sue you, and we’ll let a judge and jury decide if you have slimed me. And you know they won’t do that.”

sheltonhull@gmail.com

March 28, 2017

 

Album review: “Flight of the Vultures” (Parsons/Buckner/Barlow)

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“Flight of the Vultures” is a snapshot of a band in ecstasis, a showcase for three jazz masters at the height of their creative powers. Trumpeter Longineu Parsons, who just recently earned his doctorate from the University of Florida, is joined by longtime collaborator Von Barlow and bassist Lawrence Buckner on a searing set of nine tunes, of which all but one are original compositions. Barlow and Buckner are well-known to local audiences from their longtime residency at the Casbah in Avondale on Sunday nights; with tenor saxophonist Eric Riehm, they comprised one of the best jazz groups working anywhere in the world.

The album starts out hot with Parsons’ own “Hannibal’s March part II”, then gets downright searing on the classic Coltrane tune “Mr. P.C.”, named for the late great bassist Paul Chambers (who played alongside Trane in the Miles Davis quintet of the 1950s). Barlow’s ride cymbal carries through into “Flute Song”, which leads into “Forward”. Buckner’s adept handling of the upright bass is featured prominently here, laying down a fantastically funky backdrop for Barlow’s tom-toms and the inimitable flute-work of the leader—shrill trills that chill and thrill as thoroughly as when you see him live, as I did at Jazzland Café just a few days ago.

From there, the band moves into their “Orgasma Suite”. Wilhelm Reich would be proud. 20 minutes of slow rising, brooding backbeats, building to a boil behind and the piercing wail of arguably the most underrated trumpeter of his generation. The recording is perfect, evocatively atmospheric; you can practically hear the shadows in the room. The last two tracks “Deeply” and “Searching”, sound like their titles, and make a fine aperitif after the stiff fluidity of the rest of the set. Overall, of my favorite albums by three of my favorite people. Good stuff…

http://tribaldisorder.com/ 

Sweet Theories: Pocket of Lollipops are the flavor of every month

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Franco Carmelino/Pocket of Lollipops/Rickolus/J Chat/Vowls/Jayel

Jack Rabbits, Saturday, February 11; $10

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Maintaining a successful band is hard. Being married is harder. Doing both simultaneously usually ends in disaster, but Pocket of Lollipops has made it look easy for years now. Singer/guitarist Maitesojune Urrechaga and vocalist/drummer Tony Kapel are no strangers to Northeast Florida audiences, nor are they strangers to each other. The band is a true labor of love from two people who love the labor—and odds are beyond decent that you’ll love it, too.

They’re playing Jack Rabbits in support of their third album, 2016’s Thanks Theo, the follow-up to their universally accepted Letters to Larrup EP and one of the best albums of the year that was. So thanks, Theo, whoever you are. The band’s sound can confound even the most descriptive scribe, but there’s one word that formulates first: “Fun”. It’s jangly, propulsive pop, laced with joy and good humor, like ice cream for your ears. With a name like “Pocket of Lollipops”, that could mean almost anything, but for the Miami-based duo, it’s a rare case of truth in advertising.

It’s not just that they sound like candy; they sound like candy that you bought earlier and put in your pocket, then forgot it was there while you went about your business—work, a concert, rioting, whatever—and it melted a little bit in your pocket. You forgot it was there, until you got home later; you felt the bulge and reached in, with the kind of mortal terror one only gets when there is melted candy in the pocket of your favorite pants. But it turns out that the candy was wrapped up so well that your pockets are completely clean, and you’ve got this warm, kinda gooey mass of sugar and pectin that still retains the essence of its original shape, and instead of stressing about ruined pants, you fall asleep with candy in your mouth—and no one dares wake you up, because it’s just too cute. Real talk. (For me, it’s blue raspberry Blow Pops, but to each their own.)

Likewise, upon first listen, you might think you’re being assaulted with random noise generated by the diddling of dilettantes, but you quickly learn that the chaos is organized better than the Strategy of Tension. At first glance, you might think they’re insane, and they may very well be, but they know exactly what they’re doing. Do you? Nope. Okay, then.

11703058_10153143254734317_5703198835468273890_nsheltonhull@gmail.com

Southern Discomfort: Idle Bloom brings the new Nashville sound back to Duval County

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The last time Idle Bloom was in town, working the Shantytown, they were known as Fancytramp, and their CDs were covered with glitter. Two years and one name-change later, and the band returns in support of the ten-song debut album Little Deaths, which isn’t even officially released until the 17th. The Nashville-based quartet delivers a fresh variation on that now-ubiquitous indie sound, which has allowed them to thrive in one of the world’s most competitive music scenes.

“Technically speaking, Fancytramp is a different band, just has two of the same members,” writes bassist Katie Banyay, by way of correction. Singer/guitarist Olivia Scibelli leads the group through a torrent of tightly arranged fuzzbox fantasia, alongside second guitarist Callan Dwan, harmonizing over top with bassist Banyay while drummer Weston Sparks pushes the pulse forward like an offensive lineman in Flying Wedge formation. The band has grown closer and more confident during their hiatus; now they’re coming for theirs, and failure seems unlikely.

“‘Idle Bloom’ comes from a poem by Caroline Clive called I Watched The HeavensWe had the name and [Fancytramp’s] last show set up, but needed a new drummer. So Weston Sparks was suggested to play with us from a friend. We clicked instantly and he was such a trooper. He learned an entire Fancytramp set that he’d never play again! Soon after, we found a second guitar player and began as what was truly the beginning of Idle Bloom. The lineup has switched around some with Gavin Schriver being added recently.”

Issued through the Fraternity As Vanity label (FV008), Little Deaths meets and well exceeds the promise of their 2015 single Fare Fumo, a split 7” with Churchyard, yet another fine Nashville band (whose self-titled album from 2015 is a steal at $5). “Little Deaths differs from the EP (Some Paranoia), mainly by two things: I think it has a bigger sound and was planned out more thoroughly,” writes Banyay.

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”With Some Paranoia we had the intention of it being a full length. It was recorded in our friend Shibby’s grandma’s basement. We were all anxious to release something. It was very ambitious of us to want to start off with a full length, so once we had all of the songs finished, we chose the best performances from that session and turned it into an EP. The songs we didn’t add to Some Paranoia, we ended up rerecording with Kyle Gilbride (plus other songs, one recorded with Joe McMahan) and those are on Little Deaths. So we had all this extra time to rework the songs and figure out exactly what we wanted our sound to be. I’m really proud of all the hard work and time we put into this album.”

Joining them at Rain Dogs will be Terror Pigeon (one of the greatest band names ever), Totally KAROL, from Tallahassee, and Ruffians, who could be called local legends about as surely as anyone working today. Bonus: Free t-shirts from promoter Big Dunn, auteur of the infamous “Smoke Meowt” line, which completely took on a life of its own last year. He’ll be starting his birthday month out in style—and so will you, if you get one of them dang shirts, for realsies.

 

sheltonhull@gmail.com

Friends of Flint: Kemetic Empire leading water-drive

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The ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan has quickly captured the attention of the entire country, and pushback has been coming far and wide. Graphic pictures of brown water, laced with lead and other toxic contaminants, sparked immediate national outrage, to the point that President Obama declared a state of emergency for the entire city of 100,000-plus people, of whom over 9,000 children have already tested positive for lead exposure.

Activists and citizen groups have been collecting drinking water for the people of Flint, with their efforts being bolstered by celebrities like Meek Mill, Pearl Jam, Cher, Diddy, Mark Wahlberg and Michael Moore (whose classic film “Roger and Me” introduced Flint to a national audience in the 1980s. Some are donating water directly, while many others (like Jimmy Fallon) are providing cash to buy water.

Northeast Florida has plenty of water to spare, of course, and some of it will be heading to Flint this Friday, January 29, in a caravan being organized by the Kemetic Empire and Urban Geo-Ponics. Diallo Sekou co-founded these organizations several years ago to help highlight the political and economic disparities affecting the urban areas of Jacksonville, while drawing attention to the practical solutions being developed in response.

For him and his colleagues, the situation in Flint only reinforces concepts that he and his colleagues have been stressing locally for quite some time. “The community has to play a more important and vital role when it comes to day to day business of their lives,” says Sekou. “For poor people there are several issues affecting us all. starting with our own self-interest and not wanting to operate as a collective to change these types of conditions. Ownership and control of our areas is the key to shifting the paradigm.”

Water and supplies can be dropped off at the Ethio Discount Store on Main Street and 16th, or people can call Sekou or Ishmael Muhammad directly. All donations are tax-deductible.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1693550497589311/1693558050921889/

http://www.thekemeticempire.com/operation-flint-get-clean-water-to-the-people/

https://www.gofundme.com/dyy8spt8