New Journalistic Essay: Visiting Cook County Jail with Jesse Jackson

On Christmas morning, I accompanied civil rights leader, Jesse Jackson, on his fiftieth annual visit to Cook County Jail, the largest in the Chicagoland area. In my essay, I report on Jackson’s moving remarks to inmates, and the work of his organization, Rainbow/PUSH, to combat racial and class biases in the criminal justice system, mass incarceration, and the existence of modern day debt prisons.

Read it at the Daily Ripple.

Jesse Jackson Cook County Jail 2

End of The Year Update: Music, Politics, and Poetry

The website fell silent over the past few months. Appearances, however, are deceptive. What follows is a month-by-month update of my writing through the fall and winter.

September: I wrote an essay on the legendary Aretha Franklin, and the decline of soul and passion in American music for the American Conservative. I also interviewed Americana songwriting legend, Alejandro Escovedo, for Salon.

Be About It Press ran my first published poems.

October: I interviewed Brent Smith, lead singer of Shinedown, for No Depression.

November: This Zine Will Change Your Life, under the curation of the always brilliant Ben Tanzer, published my poem, “High School Night.”

I reviewed Take Good Care, the new record from The Revivalists, for No Depression.

At the American Conservative, I crossed into territory few writers dare explore by analyzing “political correctness” with a position equally sympathetic to its proponents and critics.

December: For the Los Angeles Review of Books, I wrote about how Edward Hopper’s depiction of America as a lonely and fractured society is stunningly applicable to a country under the leadership of Donald Trump.

In my newest essay, hot off the digital press, I lament and analyze the sad state of American culture, where romantic love is suddenly out of fashion

Enjoy your reading, and Happy New Year!

The Poetry of Democracy: Rosa Parks, Jesse Jackson, and Aretha Franklin

The first time I interviewed Warren Haynes, he said, “We now live an era when someone can press a button on a computer to make a bad singer sound average, and someone can press a button on a computer to make an average singer sound good. But no one will ever be able to push a button to make someone sound like Otis Redding or Aretha Franklin.”

Aretha Franklin’s artistic might and magic defied all human limitation.

Thinking about her death, I revisited one of the most powerful moments of recent memory – When she and Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. collaborated to eulogize Rosa Parks.

I wrote an essay on their soul stirring tribute to one of America’s greatest heroes.

 

Jackson Franklin

 

Recent Essays: Yellowstone, Howard Zinn, and Trump-Russia Criminality

In a recent column for Salon, I have reviewed the excellent new series starring Kevin Costner, Yellowstone, arguing that it uses America’s ongoing ecological destruction, along with the plight and predicament of Native Americans, to present an intriguing, but dark look at the emptiness of American culture.

For the American Conservative, I defended the late historian, Howard Zinn, against an attack from an American Conservative writer. Zinn was a true believer in the populist necessity to exert control over the reckless, and often cruel, application of power. His work is important and valuable.

My most recent column for Salon is an interview with Greg Olear, a novelist and journalist whose new book, Dirty Rubles: An Introduction to Trump/Russia, is the most arresting and alarming explanation of the Trump-Russia connection I have found.

New Essay on American Patriotism and Despair

America is a religion to Americans. Great American artists present a necessary, intelligent, and truthful alternative to the dogmatic lie of naming the country a “shining city on the hill.”

In my latest essay for Salon, I explore the beautifully heretical tradition of the American arts, paying particular attention to Andrew Wyeth, Edward Hopper, Bruce Springsteen, Raymond Chandler, and Joan Didion.

Read it here.

Andrew Wyeth Independence Day

New Interview with John Mellencamp

I recently had a fascinating and fun conversation with artistic legend, John Mellencamp. We discussed his new painting exhibition, the arts in America, and living according to the demands and joys of creativity. Read my essay, based on the interview, at Salon.

Salon published my first interview with Mellencamp last summer. In that conversation, we focused on his music.

john-mellencamp-art-A-Bed-of-Nails-2017-billboard-embed

Recent Talk on Bars in America

Fifty of us gathered at the Chicago St. Pub in Joliet, Illinois to have a criminally fun time when I gave a talk on the history and importance of bars in American culture. In my talk, I covered a wide variety of intellectual territory – from the foundation of the United States to the contemporary affliction of loneliness in American life. Brent James and John Condron provided musical accompaniment in key moments. Naturally, libations flowed liberally.

David Masciotra

David Masciotra

David Masciotra