The purpose of this monthly series is to highlight an outstanding contributor to the site as chosen by the editorial staff. This designation is meant to recognize and celebrate the best of the best, those writers who not only shine by virtue of their talent, but whose ongoing participation gives all of us a reason to tune in each and every day. As new readers are continually discovering Blogcritics, we also hope to introduce these fine writers to a new audience.
Please join me in a virtual round of applause for this month’s honoree, Al Barger!
Music critic, gadfly, political pundit — all these and more describe Al Barger, one of the most prolific and controversial writers to grace BC’s virtual pages. On board since 2002, and with well over 1000 articles to his credit, the force of Al’s personality can be felt across the site as he contributes content regularly on a wide variety of topics and is a familiar 'face' in the comments section as well. Honest to a fault, dismissive of all notions of political correctness, and possessed of eclectic musical tastes and a wry sense of humor, Al's presence serves to liven up the BC neighborhood on an almost daily basis.
Al describes his beginnings thusly:
I was born under a bad sign on October 17, 1962. It obviously didn't register on me at the time, but this was smack during the Cuban missile crisis. My father, Howard Barger, was the proprietor of Barger's Lakeview Market, so I come from a family of shopkeepers.
Raised in a Protestant tradition, Al says of his religious upbringing, “I was raised up around Pentecostals, but our churches weren't going for any of that speaking in tongues or rolling around in the aisles. My Grandpa Brown regarded such things as more likely signs of demonic possession than of the Holy Ghost.” He spent a year and a half at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, which gave him a good grounding in the classics (most notably Homer, Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates) and eventually earned a degree in journalism from Ball State University in 1989.
Al’s interest in politics has clearly been built from the ground up:
The most interesting job I ever had involved working as a mere grunt on the phones working for a Democrat-owned polling firm. I spent a couple of years conducting push-polls, the kind of thing where they try out different types of mud to see which ones will stick. "If you heard that Senator Smith took $250K in campaign money from the NRA, would that make you MUCH LESS likely to vote for him, SOMEWHAT LESS likely, or make NO DIFFERENCE?" Among other things, this meant I spent Election Day of 1992 actually making get-out-the-vote calls to Chicago voters for the Clinton/Braun campaigns. I felt so dirty. I really enjoyed talking to the voters, though it took great restraint to avoid getting off-script or expressing my own opinions.