Monday, January 24, 2022

No More Meat Loaf

 I suppose the thing that I admire most is the fact that he stuck with that name: Meat Loaf. Brought into the world, he was Michael Lee Aday. On his way out, he was Meat Loaf, a name he was saddled with back in the mid-sixties. He stuck with that moniker for more than sixty years, and a career that spanned more than fifty years. Compare that to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson or Little Johnny Cougar Mellencamp, guys who jettisoned their nicknames as their fame increased. They were not happy to be packaged as a product. But not Meat. Mister Loaf embraced it. He owned it. 

My first introduction to Meat Loaf and his music was, I confess, via the album cover for Bat Out Of Hell. That chopper roaring out of the grave into the lurid orange and red sky, with that gigantic bat standing guard over the tombstones. It was drawn by Richard Corben, whom I would later discover in my travels through Heavy Metal magazine, but it was all Meat. 

Or at least that was what I believed at the time. It took me a decade or so to catch up to the reality, thanks to a much more devoted fan than I, my roommate and partner in crime who introduced me to Jim Steinman, the composer and arranger behind all that brute force rock and roll. Jim was not happy that his name was not featured alongside his friend's. But what self-respecting record exec would pass up a chance to stick Meat Loaf on the front of any brand new record? Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf? Probably not. 

It was the same pal who introduced me to something that I had missed in my high school years: The Rocky Horror Picture Show, featuring the musical talents and the crowd response line, "Meat Loaf? Again?" That appearance in everyone's favorite midnight movie would probably be enough to cement his pop culture legacy, but Meat would not rest. Or loaf, if you prefer. His music career and a series of acting gigs in movies that the casual viewer might have missed. 

Oh, and he was in Fight Club. His name was Robert Paulson. In an ironic twist, Meat's character was a beast of a man, but the actor himself had just shed a lot of weight, and was therefore required to perform his role in a fat suit. Apologies, here for talking about Fight Club, since we all know the rules, don't we?

But I think the thing I won't ever forget about Meat Loaf was the moment, toward the end of the song Paradise By The Dashboard Light when he promises his girl that he will "love her until the end of time." A beat, then, "So now I'm prayin' for the end of time." 

Aloha, Meat Loaf. You truly stomped on the Terra. And we're looking forward to the end of time when we'll all be able to spend some more time with you. 

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Don't Sing Along With Mitch

 "Well the concern is misplaced, because if you look at the statistics, African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans." Senator Mitch "Rhymes With Mitch" McConnell said this after a vote to move the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to the Senate floor failed this past week. This came from the Senate Minority Leader who is, perhaps unfairly compared to a turtle, failed to acknowledge first and foremost the irony of his position. Senate Minority Leader. The Minority, Republicans, managed to scuttle legislation from moving through Congress to become law. If only minorities had this kind of power across the United States. 

I'm not talking Republicans here. I am talking about Americans here, a point which seems to have evaded Mitch. 

I am also amazed that a person of no particular color can speak to the concerns of people of color. The man for whom this legislation was named is no longer around to debate, so the point, for Mitch, seems to be moot. Or maybe it's the statistics that trouble him. Like the ones that say that, since 2000, black eligible voters have accounted for nearly half of Georgia's electorate's growth. Voter ID laws, redistricting, access to polling place information and translated voting materials have been shown to be factors in keeping eligible voters away from the polls. 

Maybe Mitch didn't get a chance to finish his thought. Maybe what he meant to say was that African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans, "and we're going to do everything we can to stop that." It was back in 2013 when the United States Supreme Court backed its truck over the original Voter's Rights Act, but that was after we had already elected an African American president, so everything was cool. Right?

Now it is the voters who bear the responsibility of proving that they have been disenfranchised. If this sounds a little like a corpse bearing the responsibility for proving that it was murdered, then you may not be in a place to go along with Mitch. Oh, and in 2016, a federal court in North Carolina found that state's newly minted voter ID law was created to "target African Americans with almost surgical precision." Targeting with surgical precision sounds like it should be in a tag line for a Jason Bourne movie, not in laws restricting votes. Votes that, have historically leaned toward the Democrats, which makes Republicans worry. And that group is growing. Which makes Republicans terrified. 

Or at least that's what statistics show. 

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Lessons Learned

 Heaven forbid anyone should feel uncomfortable. 

Especially white people.

In Florida.

Yes, once again the spotlight falls on The Dongle State as the "governor" pushes a bill through his state's legislature  that would prohibit public schools and private businesses from making white people feel “discomfort” when they teach students or train employees about discrimination in the nation’s past. "Governor Ron" said he would seek legislation that would allow parents to sue schools and employees to sue employers if they were subject to critical race theory. Good news for the frivolous lawsuit barristers out there. Not so good for those of us who prefer our reality a little more real. 

It was my fifth grade teacher who opened my eyes to the Holocaust by suggesting that I read Anne Frank's diary. That was at a point when I was fascinated by all things World War II. It turns out there was a reason the Nazis were "the bad guys." Six million of them. This was the same gentleman who introduced me to the Sandy Creek Massacre. Growing up in Colorado, we were inevitably walked past the contributions of our Native American predecessors, but it wasn't until fifth grade that the suggestion of genocide was tossed into the mix. 

Did these teachings make me feel any less of myself? Maybe. A little. But mostly it brought clarity to those moments in history when those colonial powers who came to exert their culture and race across the land through force. Broken treaties. Broken windows. Broken people. 

So when it came time to consider slavery right here in the land of the free and home of the brave, I was ready. To say that mistakes were made would be the understatement of the past two millennia. The subjugation of another human being is wrong. The fact that our nation was built on the backs of those who were taken and forced to do the work made us "the bad guys." And maybe it was easier in 1970's Boulder, Colorado to handle this kind of information. It certainly made me more aware of our family's trips through the southwest and its native reservations. It made me seek out more truth about what happened all those years ago when we systematically created a notion of racial superiority. 

This did not make me feel comfortable. It was not taught to me for that purpose. I learned about those mistakes so that I would not repeat them. Governor Ron's bill reads, in part, “An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, does not bear responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex. An individual should not be made to feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race.” 

Here's a little lesson for Governor Ron: If you don't feel any of those things, you're not feeling anything. It's called empathy. That's a much harder thing to teach. Please return to your fifth grade classroom to inquire about it. 

Friday, January 21, 2022

Things That We Up With Put

 I have never been kicked out of a bar.

It was once suggested that I might be asked to leave a Denny's, since it's a "family restaurant" and all. A friend and I were given a similarly worded stern warning about the dialogue we were carrying on near the back of the Disneyland parking lot tram. Which would seem like a good way to lead into this next point:

I have been asked to leave a friend's house. More than once. 

This suggests that I feel most comfortable in the homes of close personal acquaintances. More comfortable than I do in a declared family restaurant or just outside the Happiest Place On Earth. Which in turn suggests that I feel like I feel most free in the company of those who know me best. 

Or perhaps it means that the way I have acted, historically, has somehow passed the "sniff test" around individuals who have felt the depths of my charms in public settings. 

So rather than do a lot of what might be a regrettable dredge of my past behavior, which I assure you was offensive but not ever to the degree that actual security had to be summoned, I will go ahead and confess to what all these shenanigans on my part has generated: an absurd amount of tolerance. 

The hallmark of this can be found in the way I tend to simply ignore loud noises coming from across the street. Day or night. This is my penance for all the times my stereo or my "inside voice" was not suitable for those within a half mile. Similarly, the outrageous behavior I have encountered in our neighborhood parties has never tipped the scales past the "Oh, that's nothing compared to what we did once" mark. 

And when it comes to drunken sloshing or borderline belligerence, I can absorb a lot of slurred attempts at humor, or sloppy confrontations aimed at the windmills of authority. I get it. I've been there. Things will look a lot different in the light of the coming day. I have made those next morning phone calls, and the level of shame that accompanies anyone with a conscience suggests that there really should be a limit to what we will all allow. 

Mine has just been calibrated a little differently. 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Appearances

 That post that I wrote a few days back about how Bob Saget may not have been the iconic role model of a dad that he appeared on Full House? Well, upon reflection, none of this should be any kind of shock.

At all. 

Let's take the lovable cad Joe Garrelli on News Radio. As played by the not nearly so lovable Joe Rogan, his character is described as the "street-smart electrician and handyman." His character had a deep mistrust of consumer products, preferring instead to piece together his won contraptions, while periodically spouting bizarre conspiracy theories. So much so that the rest of the characters on the show suspected that he might be the Unabomber. 

Okay. So sometimes there is a pretty close parallel between the characters they played on TV and the actors who portrayed them. The scariest part is that Joe Rogan's wild conspiracy theory chatter is now more than three times more popular than Tucker Carlson's rants. Which pushes us through the looking glass into the realm where Stephen Colbert's eponymous show starring himself on Comedy Central was "just a character." The narcissistic right wing commentator had to be put on a shelf when the "real" Stephen Colbert got his job hosting The Late Show on CBS. Are you still with me? Then let's go just a little further down this twisted path to the case of Alex Jones, who during his divorce trial insisted that the conspiracy-mongering host of InfoWars podcast was (wait for it) "just a character." 

So, maybe Shakespeare was even more right than he could have imagined. We are all just players on this world stage, and some of us have really interesting roles to play. And maybe some of us are more method than others. Which wouldn't be a problem if we were all pretending to be nice, clever people. That would be nice. Unfortunately, we seem to have way too many folks whose "characters" are not very kind and not very bright. And they seem to be the ones we end up giving all this attention. 

And money. 

Would it be any sort of relief to discover, after all these years, that Donald Trump was really some guy named Don Gleeson, who managed to turn his night club act about a cartoonish lout of a New York slumlord into an empire? 

And what about Bill Cosby? 

Stay tuned. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Lost And Found

 I always used to scratch my head when I heard stories about teenagers who went out for a night of beer chugging and mailbox smashing. With their video cameras. How long before that footage shows up in a place where someone watching will decide to turn state's evidence so they don't have to pay for the damage they witnessed or replace the garden gnome that was forcibly violated? It was, and still is, a not so subtle cry for help: Please catch me and give me the attention I so richly deserve. Punish me!

Which was borne out in all it's red baseball cap glory during the insurrectionist riot of January 6, 2021. All of those tiny-brained sycophants who broke windows and beat police officers and trespassed without any real sense of where they were going or what they hoped to achieve. Sure, there were pitchforks and flagpoles and scary looking individuals racing about with zip ties, but mostly they seemed intent on trashing the place. 

And putting it all on the interwebs. For everyone to see. Including law enforcement. Judges. News agencies. How could anyone be shocked by the outrage they have received while they insisted on parading through our social media pages with a sense of befuddled entitlement? 

Then there's this: According to Maryland's Representative Jamie Raskin, many calls were received in the days after last January 6 asking about a "lost and found." It seems that a number of the tiny brains that went on that little rampage a year ago wanted help finding cell phones, purses and other personal belongings that they dropped or forgot while they were busy doing whatever it was that they were doing while attempting to halt the democratic process. These calls were turned over to the police, who were more than happy to take names, addresses and other vital information from those who may have misplaced their keys as well as their loyalties on that day. The police then agreed to help "tie up any loose ends" in regard to their time spent ransacking the Capitol. 

This really happened. This is the brain trust that continues to exist out there as the net continues to sweep up the more than seven hundred identified and charged with crimes. Once these individuals have cried themselves out in front of the judge and feel the door close behind them, finding themselves alone in their cell without hope of being rescued by the people whose brilliant idea it was to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue and take a big old swing at the biggest mailbox of them all. And to think they had the good sense to provide us with clear, photographic evidence. 

Maybe they should be looking for their self respect instead of their cell phones. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Coming Soon

 My son recently made the wish that we would live in more precedented times. He is part of a generation that would happily return to the well-worn ruts of the past, with no surprises or breaking news. Somebody got into a fight at school and got suspended? Good. They didn't come back the next week and shoot the place up. 

Last week was a hot one, but that doesn't mean that an entire species was lost and a coastal region is now underwater. We could go back to having thunderstorms and even blizzards, but who really needs a bomb cyclone or an atmospheric river? Weather should go back to being something that you talk about after you've run out of everything else to talk about. 

Kind of like a "minimum wage." This suggests that somewhere there is a "minimum job." Flipping burgers is a noble enterprise and should be rewarded every bit as much as those whose job is to sit on top of all the money generated by the burgers flipped by those wearing name tags. 

History should not be up for debate. What happened is a matter of record, and though it sometimes takes a while to get comfortable with it, we shouldn't have to worry about raising a new generation that is dumber than those previous just because we were embarrassed by what we did or we didn't understand. 

Kerjillionaires should stop taking millionaires for rides in what is just barely outer space and start feeding children who are hungry. It's time to stop giving the impression that the one percent of the one percent is planning to jump off this planet just as soon as possible, leaving those of us who can't afford the price of the ticket stranded in the mess we all made. Start giving away some of those electric cars. See how that helps.

And let's make politics boring again. Personalities are for people in the entertainment field. If you're going to Congress, delete your Twitter account and start working on governing. Stop making it a freak show. 

Ultimately, I hope that my son can raise his children in a world with a twenty-four minute news cycle. "Here's your sports scores, and a reminder that we can all do a little better. Tomorrow will be mostly sunny with a chance of happiness. Good night."

Monday, January 17, 2022

Near Dark

 If you're feeling cheated and can't pinpoint the reason why, I think I may have the answer: You missed out on my very dark, goth period. It wasn't my manner of dress or piercings of any sort. I have maintained a pretty solid streak of T-shirts and jeans for most of my six decades on the planet, and the only holes in my body are the ones I was assigned at birth. No, to fully appreciate my prophet of doom phase, you would have had to spend some quality time with the spiral notebooks I filled with poetry that did not rhyme and sketchbooks full of menace. 

In the mid to late eighties, I was amassing a large body of work that no one else really wanted to see. I know this because I sent a great many of those non-rhyming poems out to magazines in hopes of being rewarded with publication. An audience. That's what I craved. Not enough to go to an open mike somewhere and spout them at strangers in a dark room. That would have been so, how shall I say it, obvious?

What I think I really had in mind at the time was that eventually someone would stumble on this body of work, tucked away in a storage space somewhere, box after box of personal papers filled with the dark wit and wisdom of an understood poet. During this period, I was also still writing short stories, many of them every bit as creepy as the poems and doodles that filled the margins. It was also during this time that I actively avoided using a computer or a typewriter, preferring to scribble in my somewhat cramped and nearly legible scrawl with a Round Stic Bic Pen. With black ink. When it was time to send the latest batch off to The New Yorker for initial rejection, I surrendered to the convention of typing. I am sure that this transition sapped the angst factor down at least a few percentage points, probably resulting in their return via self- addressed stamped envelope which was another convention of the time. 

It occurs to me now that if I could have held on for just a few more years, I might have found a spot writing lyrics for an up and coming grunge band. These were not love poems, more like vaguely arsty cries for help. Help which eventually arrived in the form of a certain level of maturity. As I approached thirty years old, it dawned on me that there wasn't really a market for my marginally tormented soul. The disappointments and anguish that fueled my suburban upbringing were not a window onto a truly twisted victim of his own muses. 

So, now aren't you glad that you missed that episode? And if you happen to be one of those who may have lived through that period with me and have stuck around to see how this all turned out, I hope it was worth it. 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Biscuit

 How are you feeling?

I know, every time you cough, you expect that someone will jump out from behind a mailbox or a desk and try to shove a Q-Tip up your nose. These are not relaxed times in which we find ourselves living.

If you sneeze in public, men gasp. Women faint. Small children run to hide their faces in their mothers' skirts. Unless of course mom has fainted in which case this reaction would have to be amended. 

I used to imagine that every little headache was the onset of brain cancer. That throbbing sensation in my temples is a ticking time bomb, counting down to the moment my head explodes. Now I figure it has to be COVID. 

Each new day brings another opportunity to worry, causing a colleague of mine to wonder aloud if it wouldn't be better simply to go out and breathe it in. Make sure you get a solid dose. Instead of waiting around for what the oracle of virus, Doctor Fauci, assures us is the natural course of things. Omicron "will find just about everybody," he says. 

I'm going to suggest that it's time to work on the good doctor's bedside manner. 

Meanwhile in another dimension, the one we call Faux News, after the departure of Chris Wallace, we are stuck with Geraldo Rivera as the "voice of reason." Geraldo was using his spot as an advocate for vaccination and testing, imploring viewers to imagine the future when we will all look back at this as a terrible chapter in our history. Judge Jeanine rolled her eyes and brushed it off. "Um, yeah. We'll see." 

She's a Judge because she's judgy. And if that doesn't make you sick then you probably don't have to worry about any of the variants of the disease that has killed nearly six million people. 

Meanwhile, I leave you with the wisdom of A.A. Milne, author of Winnie The Pooh, who wrote this scene of motherhood between Kanga and her little boy Roo: 

  “I don’t think Roo had better come,” he said. “Not today.”

  “Why not?” said Roo, who wasn’t supposed to be listening.

  “Nasty cold day,” said Rabbit, shaking his head. “And you were coughing this morning.”

  “How do you know?” asked Roo indignantly.

  “Oh, Roo, you never told me,” said Kanga reproachfully.

  “It was a Biscuit Cough,” said Roo, “not one you tell about.”

Here's hoping all yours are Biscuit Coughs. 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Lemmings

 I am pretty sure that it's a good thing that Luke Skywalker was too preoccupied with thoughts of moisture vaporators and  those power converters he wanted to pick up at Tosche Station that he wasn't listening to the interchange between Han Solo and Obi Won regarding their plan to get off the Death Star: 

"Damn fool," mutters Han, "I knew you were going to say that."

"Who's the more foolish? The fool or the fool who follows him?" intones Obi Won. 

It's meant to be a Jedi-zen dis of the smuggler, but instead ends up being a Force dropkick to the chops of young Skywalker. Who's the more foolish? The fool or the fool who leaves behind his family's moderately safe moisture farm on Tatooine, only to end up getting his "master" killed and his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru? 

Forgive me for taking you on that little nerd-ride there, but it seemed to sum up my feelings about the right wing pundits who have been sued, fired, or caught in flagrante hypocritical. The capstone to this particular pyramid are the fonts of "wisdom" that are allowed access to the airwaves and Al Gore's Internet. It's the moment that I look down below someone's name and see that they have not just hundreds, not thousands, but hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. I would like to believe that the bulk of these folks are doing this following ironically and that they aren't simply lemmings blindly following the back end of a bunch of other lemmings off a cliff. This is especially true of those lemmings who are following other lemmings and not watching as their leader steps to the side at the last minute to safety while the rest of the herd plummets to their death. 

Alex Jones. Tucker Carlson. Sean Hannity. To name but a few. I could go on and on, but I believe that the word from the bottom of the cliff is pretty clear. Open your eyes. Don't believe everything you read or hear. Check out possible conflicting views from lemmings who are sitting out this particular rush to the edge. What do they know? What order do they watch the Star Wars saga? If they aren't starting with Episode IV: A New Hope, you want to check their credentials. 

Which is pretty much showing you mine, so there you are. 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Trust

 Tommy is a five year old whose parents are both deaf. His entry into school the year has been a challenge. His ability to socialize with his peers has been strained, to put it mildly. The real joy has come over these past few months, watching him become accustomed to the rhythms of school and the interactions he has with peers and staff. The fact that he came to PE last week without his backpack, a near constant accessory in case of the need for flight, was a breakthrough celebrated by us all. 

Last Friday, Tommy was hanging from the monkey bars, and his grip though fierce was beginning to loosen. "Help! I don't want to fall!" Even after a semester of watching his classmates climb up and jump to the mat, he was frozen. He couldn't go forward or back, and was faced with the inevitability of gravity. I walked over and grabbed him around the waist.

"I've got you." Tommy wrapped his arms around my neck and sobbed. Eventually, he calmed down enough to let me lower him to the ground. As I did so, I explained that there was this rubber mat down there, specially installed for just such an emergency. He could bounce. When we were six inches from the ground, I let him drop. 

When Tommy looked up, his eyes were wide. I was not sure if I had just sent him into another deeper round of mistrust. Instead, he lit up. He smiled and laughed. Then he raced over to the ladder, climbed up the three rungs, and after a moment of hesitation, he leapt. Three feet and an eternity later, he touched down, rolled to recover, and got up smiling. He had found a new joy. The last five minutes of recess were spent with him insisting that I watch him hop down from his perch. Over and over. When the bell rang, he didn't want to stop. 

I couldn't blame him.

It was this experience that made me reflect about teaching in the time of COVID. How do we make five year olds feel safe when they are only starting to trust a world outside their mother's arms? How do we teach them how to read and write when our biggest responsibility currently is keeping them from catching a deadly disease? 

Someone will catch you. Or that rubber mat below will save you. 

Trust. 

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Family Man

 If you grew up watching the American Broadcast Company's TGIF television lineup, well, you weren't me. But a lot of people weren't me, which means that many of you will probably still be nursing the wounds created by the loss of Bob Saget. I don't tend to throw this around much, but maybe it's appropriate in this case: TV funnyman Bob Saget. 

Bob played widowed dad Danny Tanner, the head of the Full House that aired on ABC from 1987 to 1995. He had the Mister Brady role of dispensing fatherly wisdom when hijinks went awry and there was a lesson to be learned. Along for the ride were Uncle Jessie, played by John Stamos, who had finally made the big time after years of playing troubled rock and roller Blackie Parrish on General Hospital. Helping fill up the house was Dave Coulier of the funny voices, who went on to have his own brush with the music biz when he became the subject of a bitter Alanis Morissette singalong, "You Oughta Know." So Bob must have been the quiet stable one, right?

If you ever had the opportunity to witness some of Bob Saget's standup routine, you might be surprised that ABC once trusted a house full of little girls to this man. This was the face of America's Funniest Home Videos. For eight years. How did all this awfulness sneak in under the radar of the audience who were tuning in for Danny Tanner to dole out world weary wisdom to his three pre-teen daughters? If anyone was going to steer them wrong it had to be Uncle Jesse or Uncle Joey, right?

Except Bob had this other persona, the one that he used in his standup act, the one that even back in 1984 was getting pretty close to the edge of what standards and practices on network TV would have considered filthy. Perhaps ABC execs didn't have cable back then. Who knows? But somehow Bob Saget became beloved father figure and host of America's Funniest Pending Lawsuits. 

Little did they know. 

Or maybe they knew all along, and they were in on the joke. Bob wrote a book titled, Dirty Daddy: The Chronicles of a Family Man Turned Filthy Comedian.  This wasn't exactly a secret. Unless you can imagine that ABC executives don't read. Which isn't so hard to believe. But Bob danced on a line of the Terra, and he will be missed, as he was by so many for so very long. Aloha, Bob. 


Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Embracing The Inevitable

 I did a quick search this morning. First I typed "Trump hugs" in the box, and got back millions of hits. Then I typed in "Biden hugs," and I was surprised to see slightly fewer hits. Upon further reflection, I noticed that more than half of the Trump hugs were about him hugging the United States flag. The responses for Biden included almost exclusively hugs given to citizens of the United States

The reason for my quandary was the image I saw last week of President Biden touring the site of the wildfires in Colorado. He was out in the streets of the destroyed subdivisions, listening, talking and shaking hands with the people whose homes were eliminated in a matter of hours as the curtain fell on the year of devastation, 2021. And there was an occasional hug

President Biden was providing comfort. It was a far cry from the bizarre scene of the former game show host and twice impeached "president" tossing rolls of paper towels into a crowd of Puerto Ricans whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Maria back in 2017. 

So, this lack of empathy for the common man comes as no real shock. The idea that a man whose current wife seems to shudder at his touch would have trouble with human contact is no surprise. 

But why should I care? As mentioned just a moment ago, up there, this guy was already impeached twice and was voted out of office by a substantial margin. He should be resigned to the also-ran dustbin of history. He should be the unfortunate asterisk in a drunken brawl of the latter half of the century's second decade. 

Instead, my news feed is chockfull of updates and anecdotes about the deposed emperor of America. After advisors talked the ex-former-disgraced "president" out of making a show out of the anniversary of the insurrection he helped foment, I am told that he spend the day "watching cable TV and fuming." To which I say, "Great!" 

The trouble is, this bloated sack of orange protoplasm continues to live, rent free, in my head. Not that I want to renegotiate the lease. I just want him out. I am so very tired of having to wade through his reaction to this or that as the world continues to turn without him anywhere near the controls. 

We just need to keep it that way. 

More hugs. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

They Call Him Mister Poitier

 I don't know if you know this, but Sidney Poitier was nearly one hundred feet tall. I saw him tower over giants like Glenn Ford, Rod Steiger and Spencer Tracy

A great actor, to be certain. He won an Academy Award for his performance in Lilies of the Field in 1964. He just happened to be the first black man to win the Best Actor prize. He earned numerous lifetime achievement awards, long before his life was through. He brought the struggle of black men and women to the forefront and never backed down. He never apologized. When he played Virgil Tibbs, a Philadelphia detective who is accused of murder in a little town in Georgia, he let the world know that this was not a moment when he would go quietly into the night. He confronted his accusers, solved the murder, and for a brief moment, brought understanding to the Deep South. In 1967. In 1968, he was the one you might by now have guessed was coming to dinner, confronting the reality of an interracial relationship to future in-laws Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. Mister Poitier then has to perform the same duty for his own parents. Keeping in mind that it was just the year before that United States Supreme Court had struck declared all prior anti-miscegenation state laws unconstitutional. It was for his activism as much as his acting that he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. 

But the reason why Sidney Poitier will be forever in my heart is the way he showed up in the classroom. Way back in 1955, he played a tough kid in Mister Dadier's high school English class. The tough kid that eventually brings the band of misfits together to support their new teacher in a Blackboard Jungle.. Then, in 1967, he played Sir. Or more conventionally, he played Mark Thackeray, the new teacher at a school in London's East End, with a group of thugs every bit as unimpressed with him as he was with Mister Dadier a decade before. With his stern but attentive hand steering this new group of misfits, he brings out their best. In the end, after a year of trials and struggles with a decision to leave the school and pursue a career in engineering, he chooses to come back for the next year. 

I get that. 

I'm sure you probably know this, but Sidney Poitier lived to be nearly one hundred years old. I was lucky enough to see him tower over us all for all that time. He stomped on the Terra like he owned it, because he did. He will be missed. Aloha, Sidney. 

Monday, January 10, 2022

At Long Last

 It wasn't until I had listened to a whole lot of music that I realized just how bad Jeff Lynne wished that he was a Beatle. At times, I have used this as a point of mockery, but after even more years of listening to music I understand just how devoted Jeff was to the legacy of those who came before. The Electric Light Orchestra, all the producing he did in the eighties and on into this new millennium, his work with George Harrison evolving into the Traveling Wilburys were all a path that helped keep those sounds and musicians in fans' minds. 

Further tributes to Mister Lynne will have to wait, but I awoke with this context to help share my feelings about Peter Bogdanovich. The acclaimed director of The Last Picture Show died this past week at the age of eighty-two. The first film he directed was Voyage to the Planet of Stone Age Women for Roger Corman. This low-rent adaptation of a low-rent Soviet science fiction movie bears little resemblance to the one for which just a few years later would bring a passel of nominations for Best Director. From his start as a film journalist, Peter was immersed in a study of the way things used to be. His second film, Targets, the story of a homicidal sniper which most people discovered after the success of Last Picture Show, featured the last screen appearance of Boris Karloff. His last picture show.

Which was not the direct path I took to discovering Mister Bogdonavich. That came when my parents took me to see Paper Moon. Starring the father and son team of Ryan and Tatum O'Neal, this black and white reverie about Depression era grifters was tattooed on my brain. What I could not recognize back then was the loving tribute this was to all those filmmakers from the twenties and thirties before him. This was also evident in the movie that preceded it, that I did not see for another ten years was the screwball comedy What's Up Doc? which some might call a ripoff of Bringing Up Baby. I was in college when I learned to use the word "homage." 

My favorite Bogdonavich memory does not reside in movies that I have seen, but rather in a movie that I did not see. Walking out of Radio City Music Hall after seeing The Great Waldo Pepper, directed by George Roy Hill, I spied a poster for At Long Last Love which was directed by Peter Bogdonavich. Nearly ten years later, when I sat on the stage of the Glenn Miller Ballroom competing in the University of Colorado's annual Trivia Bowl, we were asked to identify a film from a single shot. Burt Reynolds and Cybill Shepard together, dancing in evening wear. Just like the poster I saw on that trip to New York all those years ago. I buzzed in with the correct answer, stunning my teammates and, I confess, myself. 

Peter Bogdonavich continued to make films until 2014, but remaining a beacon onto the glory days of cinema. And though his personal life was often much more interesting than his later work, he was a link to giants like Hawks and Ford and Hitchcock and Welles. Which I suppose made him a giant in his own right. He stomped on the Terra of several generations, and he will be missed. Aloha, Peter. 

Sunday, January 09, 2022

What's New?

 The Grammys are being postponed. Because no one really cares about music anymore. Instead, we are consumed with the passion to stay alive. 

COVID-19, the Energizer Bunny of pandemics keeps going and going and going...

At my school, we have considered ourselves "fortunate" because we have only five staff members out. This has yet to impact our classrooms, but we are all doing extra bits and pieces to keep our ship afloat. We have taken some comfort in the news that other schools in our district are struggling much harder against the current tide. On the Monday that we returned from Winter Break, nearly half of our kindergarteners were absent. This trend was mirrored to some degree in our upper grades, as the take home tests that were passed out before they all went on vacation were not the math or reading type. They were the swab up the nose kind, and a lot of kids did not pass. 

This has been my experience over the past month as the new surge threatens us all. Shot, boosted, masked and cautious, there are still cases falling all around. My family and I have had a few near misses, but we can hear the approaching footsteps and we are nervous. We recall the feeling we had a year and a half ago when we wondered if simply surrendering to the virus and getting it over with might be the best scenario. 

But every time someone does that, the terrorists win.

Or the plague. 

Or whatever. 

President Joe says he understands that we have all grown weary of this new way of living. We all yearn for a maskless existence. Will three shots be enough? Will we all eventually catch it? Is there a variant out there with my name on it?

And while I ponder these questions, and consider my place in the big scheme of things, I am thankful that I am not part of the health care system. The stories circulating out there from doctors, nurses and caregivers paint a pretty bleak picture. 

So maybe we should go ahead and try to get the Grammys on as soon as safely possible. We could use a little singing and dancing to take the edge off. We can stop worrying about COVID-19 for a while and turn our attention to the nominations of Marilyn Manson and Louis C.K. While horrifying and unsettling, this is the kind of torment with which I feel more comfortable wrestling with. From a distance. Vaccinated. With two masks on. 

Saturday, January 08, 2022

The Big Broadcast

 I remember it as though it were a millennia ago. My very good friend and roommate had just returned to our little apartment after a night of mild debauchery, and was our habit, we decided to keep the party ball rolling by unwinding with a few cold brews and some cable television. Remember, this was a time when cable television was a relatively new thing. There were still discoveries to be made as you flipped about that seemingly endless dial. Fifty stations? Who could imagine that? 

As we polished off another round of brews, we landed on the University of Colorado's public access channel. Here we watched poorly edited graphics describing various activities and events just up the hill from where we sat. Some were expired, some were of no interest, but every so often one caught our eye. What we saw was not what made us stay. What kept us transfixed was the audio that was paired with the endlessly repeating scroll of calendared happenings. It was the audio behind them. We sat and listened to the campus radio station broadcast coming through into our living room and we could not turn away. It started innocently enough, with a musical selection: USA for Africa's We Are The World.  This was not a true surprise, since this charity single was in heavy rotation on just about every radio station in America at the time. What did catch us and keep us was what happened next.

The DJ came back on the air after playing the song, with a voice that sounded every bit as "relaxed" as we were feeling. He started by casting doubts about the record he had just played, wondering aloud if all the supposed millions of dollars that were being raised from the promotion and sale of this song was really getting to the victims of the famine in Africa. He rambled on for a few minutes, an eternity in radio time, but clearly not an issue on what was essentially commercial free college radio. He finished up with, "I dunno, I just figure somebody out there's getting rich and a lot of little kids are still starving." 

And that was it. We couldn't change channels. He cut to another song, and then another. We kept waiting for this lone voice from the wilderness to return with another jab at the status quo. 

Which is to say that once upon a time I witnessed the birth of podcasts. In 1985. My friend and I would stay up late once a week to catch this "show," which eventually evolved into a platform for "South America's favorite rock star, Johnny Dragon" hosted by the same DJ and featuring this mysterious visitor from south of our border. We listened every week and encouraged our friends and neighbors to tune in, taping three hour shows in the hopes of catching some of the edgy brilliance of that first night.

Upon reflection, do I find it hard to believe that someone might become caught up in a conspiracy-laden podcast where you feel that you have discovered someone, a voice that speaks directly to you? No. But eventually my friend and I made our way up to the studio where the broadcast was being made, and we confronted the reality of this undergrad and his buddies in the next room providing the call-ins from "the audience." We stopped listening after that. The mystery of anonymity was shattered. 

I suspect that if someone bothered to drop by the closet where Steve Bannon generates his spleen to vent, that man behind the curtain would be revealed. He's not a wizard. He's not a genius. He's just a very bad man. With access to Al Gore's Internet. 

Friday, January 07, 2022

Superstar

 I was watching what everyone in the sporting community believes will be Ben Roeslithberger's last game in Pittsburgh. After eighteen years, the Steelers quarterback is hanging up his cleats and heading out to do whatever it is that quarterbacks do when they stop being quarterbacks. Except this guy won't have to worry about buying a steak dinner in Steel Town. In a career that spanned nearly twenty years, he took his team to the Super Bowl three times, winning two of them. The teams he has played with in Pittsburgh have never finished under 500. They have never had a losing season. 

There are a lot of sports fans who would love to have that statistic in their back pocket if it were to apply to their favorite team. 

And yet, there were those who believe Old Ben may have stuck around a little too long. It was this legend's appearance in the lineup that kept the franchise from moving on. The NFL is an entertainment business, and just getting by doesn't sell three hundred dollar souvenir jerseys. Nonetheless, at the ripe old age of thirty-nine years old, Ben Roethlisberger will be unleashed on the unsuspecting public with nothing to do on Sunday afternoons but count his money and wait for a call from the Hall of Fame. After two decades of being tossed around like a great big tackling dummy, there's not a lot left for him to prove, and his legacy will be paying off for years to come. He might put his name on a car dealership, or in front of that steakhouse where he won't be paying for those steaks. 

All of which is to say that he is now and will continue to be a sports hero. And he made a victory lap after he took his last snap at Heinz Field Monday night, soaking in the adoration and love from a city that worships its sports heroes. In a country that loves its sports heroes. 

Of course, nowhere in the mix of all this adoration was there any mention of the six game suspension he received from the NFL back in 2010 for "violating the league's personal conduct policy." This was for a case that didn't go to trial involving a twenty year old co-ed at a Georgia nightclub. That suspension was later lowered to just four games, probably once prosecutors declined to pursue the matter. Back then, the Pittsburgh Steelers were looking to unload their star quarterback just in case. Just in case he didn't straighten up and fly right. 

We can assume that the now thirty-something woman from Georgia who was assaulted did not attend Ben's farewell. 

Thursday, January 06, 2022

US Anon

 January 6, 2021. A day that will live in infamy. We weren't attacked from outside. This one came from within. Like some poorly written piece of episodic television, the deposed "president" called on his mongrel followers to rise up and restore him to the throne. A year ago, I was at school taking a Zoom meeting with our staff when the news started to break: Insurrection. 

I had been expecting trouble with the electoral vote count. Plenty of voices in Congress had already been raised to insist that the election had been stolen. Never mind that this election, the Presidential Election of 2020, was one of the most carefully monitored outcome in our history. Never mind that all national polls showed the trends that were borne out when the votes were counted. Reality had been taking a beating over the past four years, and it appeared that there might be ongoing discussions about the math, as it relates to science and the outcome of the presidential race. 

But storming the U.S. Capitol? This had to be seen to be believed. And it was. The whole world looked on as an angry mob, stirred by the vitriol and lies that had been laying around getting old since November, pronounced by the acknowledged leaders of the rabble. Rudy Giuliani encouraged, "trial by combat," as he frothed more than he ever had before. His boss showed up later to exhort the mob to "Stop The Steal." 

What steal? At that point, there was no evidence of any voter fraud, certainly not in the size and number needed to overturn a singe state's results. And yet, there they stood, ready to be tipped into riot rage, attacking the seat of our country's government. Damage estimates to the Capitol range from one and a half to thirty million dollars. Five people died. By August, two more Capitol Police officers had committed suicide. And the price tag continues to be negotiated.

What did we really lose? Will we ever be able to trust one another again? Seven hundred twenty-seven people were charged for the insurrection on that day. More than fifty have been convicted for various felonies. Some of them are in jail. 

None of them are Rudy Giuliani. None of them are Steve Bannon. None of them are Donald Trump. 

2022 is an election year. 

Sleep tight, America. 

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Representing What?

 On what is normally a day of rest, Twitter chose this past Sunday to permanently suspend the account of U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene. Some who would call this day Sabbath will take this as a blessing. "We permanently suspended the account you referenced (@mtgreenee) for repeated violations of our COVID-19 misinformation policy," Twitter said in a statement. "We’ve been clear that, per our strike system for this policy, we will permanently suspend accounts for repeated violations of the policy."

Which brings up a couple non-theological points: First of all, this doesn't mean that the Georgia Representative will be silenced completely on Twitter. She will still have access to her professional account, the one she uses for official business. The business of governance.

I will give you a moment to stifle the giggles. 

What was the second point? How about this: What does this person have to do to be suspended from the United States Congress? The five strike policy implemented by social media finally caught up to her, but what about any sort of decorum or behavior expectations for members of Congress? Whether it's repeating ridiculous conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, complained that social media had denied the former game show host and twice impeached "president" by suspending his account, and then there's all the nonsense she has been spewing about COVID-19. Like this one: 

"Every single year more than 600,000 people in the US die from cancer.

The country has never once shut down.

Not a single school has closed.

And every year, over 600,000 people, of all ages and all races will continue to die from cancer."

Not late-night parody. Just another day in the tiny little brain of Marjorie Taylor Greene. A very lonely, and scary place. That still holds an office in the United States Capitol. 

Still. 

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

The Lights Go Down

 There are plenty of opportunities for melancholy to creep in during the holidays. This has been especially true over the past couple of weeks. Neighborhoods on fire. Shootings in and around shopping malls. And all this playing out in front of the backdrop of COVID-19. Festivities were, in a word, muted. Friends and family were absent in many cases, and we had to content ourselves once again with the safety of our bubbles. 

Outside, the decorations that have adorned our lawn for all those years were put in place to be turned on the day after Thanksgiving. And there they stayed, bringing a welcome dose of sameness to a street that needed some. Each night when the sun went down, the switch would be flipped and the ordinary spectacular would begin. Again. And Again. In the midst of all this weirdness and uncertainty, there was a bit of magic in our front yard. 

Until New Years Day. While parades and football provided a bridge to some sort of consistency, I busied myself with the chore of unplugging all those plugs, reeling in all the extension cords, and freeing the limbs of the trees of all those wires and bulbs. At some point, I paused and looked around. All of that brilliance was being packed into a plastic tub, to be stored in the basement, to wait for the time when it would be retrieved and decanted again. Next year.

When it's time to drag all those lights to be spread out across the lawn, checked for missing bulbs, and eventually draped about the house and yard, what shape will the world be in? Will we still need more light? Certainly not less. 

Monday, January 03, 2022

Up

 So, the name of the movie is Don't Look Up. It's about scientists discovering a comet that is hurtling toward the Earth, and how the government and media choose to deal with it. I bring this up not so much as a review, but as a bellwether. In the days after I watched the film I clicked past not one but several articles on Al Gore's Internet in which astronomers assured us all that we need not worry about such an event actually happening. I skipped past those to read how there truly is only one ring to rule them all. 

It's not real. And, as it turns out, neither was the ring. It's fantasy, and just like the heart of Lord of the Rings can be found in World War I, you don't have to look all the way to the heavens to find the inspiration for the comet. 

Just look up. Not to the skies, but to the world around us. People are still arguing about wearing a mask during a plague that has killed more than five million lives. And taking more every day. "A hoax," they cry as their gaze continues to bore a hole into their navels. 

If they looked up, they might bear witness to the cataclysmic effects of climate change. Over the past few weeks drought stricken California has been gasping beneath an "atmospheric river" that has brought creeks and streams that had been dry to near flood stage. Feet of snow has fallen in the Sierras. And we all breathe a sigh of relief. Until some scientist reminds us that we would need months more of this kind of precipitation to alter the reality of the Golden State. 

In Colorado, just down the road from where I was born, a fire burned through subdivisions in a matter of hours, destroying businesses and hundreds of homes. It had been nearly a month since there had been measurable moisture in the area. This is just over the hill from the place we used to call Ski Country, USA. Now we call it rubble. Tens of thousands were evacuated from the area. During a coronavirus spike, and sent to shelters where they were kept safe from the hundred mile an hour winds and the firestorm that raced through their neighborhoods. 

When the sun came up the next day, the area looked like a war zone. Snow began to fall as if to provide ironic counterpoint. Folks are beginning to line up to point out that it was downed powerlines that caused all that devastation. Not climate change. There will be an equal number popping up to argue with them. Meanwhile, scientists will have to go back to being interviewed about how we can get William Shatner back up into space.

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Doing Better

 As noted previously, this is 2022. Looking back at that year that was, I will note that there were some wins in the big book of justice. Ahmaud Arbery's murderers were sent to prison. As much as we may have been conditioned to expect that the lives of Black Americans did not matter as much as their white killers, this was a refreshing notice that maybe things have begun to change. On June 25, 2021, Derek Chauvin was sentenced to twenty-two and a half years in prison for killing George Floyd. Kim Potter, former Minnesota police officer, was found guilty of manslaughter in the death of Daunte Wright. That was just a couple days before Christmas. 

So maybe 2022 will be the year when Institutionalized Racism is kicked to the curb. Or maybe these verdicts are still just a faint glimmer of hope on the horizon. Recently Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke not about our criminal justice system, but our infrastructure: “I’m still surprised that some people were surprised when I pointed to the fact that if a highway was built for the purpose of dividing a White and a Black neighborhood, or if an underpass was constructed such that a bus carrying mostly Black and Puerto Rican kids to a beach — or it would have been — in New York, was designed too low for it to pass by, that that obviously reflects racism that went into those design choices. I don’t think we have anything to lose by confronting that simple reality.”

Yup. How high you build a bridge can make a huge difference. And yet, the same right-wing voices that snickered about Secretary Buttigieg taking paternity leave found this notion hilarious. How can roads be racist? The fact that these were almost exclusively white voices making these comments shows just how long the road we still have to travel really is. 

And then there's medical care. The disproportionate loss of black and brown lives to the COVID-19 pandemic is as unsettling as the practices and policies that keep families of low income and minority groups from getting the health care they deserve. 

Which is a continuation of the cycle of poverty that exists for people of color in the United States. A survey from 2019 showed that a typical white family had eight times the wealth of a typical black family. 

It's 2022. If you believe that the past two years have made everything right again because a few years back we elected our first black president, then we have a lot further to go than we had imagined. It's time to stop imagining. It's time to start doing. Better. 

Saturday, January 01, 2022

More Trouble On The Way

 Hello, and welcome to 2022. I'll be your host for the foreseeable future, so don't bother trying to adjust your set. This is the way things are, and I apologize. We are currently busy trying to keep a shooting war from breaking out between the United States and Russia over the Ukraine, as well as attempting to limit the spread of a deadly disease before the planet becomes uninhabitable for those of us left standing. 

Oh, and the Denver metro area was witness to yet another mass shooting. Before I go on, I feel it is worth mentioning that Colorado seems to have been on the ugly end of the stick when it comes to nimrods with guns. 2021 was a pretty rotten year for victims of multiple homicides. Or a pretty good year if you happen to be a psychopath. 

Like the guy in Denver, who killed five, wounded two others, and was eventually cornered and killed by a police officer returning fire. This was a guy who had already been investigating for being a whacko in 2020 and earlier in 2021, but was not taken into custody. You may note here that I did not attempt to euphemize his mental condition or state. This is because I believe that would be an insult to those who are mentally ill. After shooting three people, he set a van on fire, and that's when police began to take chase. 

It is possible that they might have done everyone a favor for locking him up after he wrote three books and sold them on Amazon. Books that received many five star reviews. Books that were called "An epic story about the human condition. It's about artificial intelligence. It's about the emasculation of the alpha male. It's a love story, a hate story. It's mean. It's poetic"

And were described by others in less gushing terms: “It’s important to note, as another one-star reviewer did, that this book presents characters who give full vent to their sexism, racism, and every other -ism kept out of mainstream discourse.”

Yeah. I know. Free speech. Why shouldn't someone be allowed to publish his fantasies about hunting down other human beings? It's when that poison pen starts leaking into the real-life water supply. It's about when the fantasy becomes reality. If you happen to be a member of Congress and post videos that show you attacking colleagues with a sword, you can get censured. It feels as if the veil between these worlds is getting mighty thin. 

And now it's 2022. I'm certain that things will only get better from here. In the meantime, feel free to see what's on other channels.