Sunday, July 31, 2022

Through A Glass Darkly

 Recently there was a flurry on my Twitterfeed surrounding a forty-two year old promotional video for the American Broadcasting Company. It featured the stars of a great many of that network's prime-time shows "singing and dancing" their way into your homes. The reason I suspect that my social media bucket had this tidbit dropped into it is my demographic. And my algorithm. And the fact that I can remember sitting transfixed back in 1980 when it first aired. "Hey look! It's Hal Linden!"

If you don't immediately recognize the name or the face, that's fine. My head is where Hal and those spirits akin to Hal abide. He was the star of the cop-comedy Barney Miller, that ran until 1982. I would imagine that Hal didn't have that end date in mind when he slipped into that white tux and came strutting down that staircase. That was all part of the job. 

There was a time when there were three broadcast networks. Three channels to get all your prime-time entertainment. For every Barney Miller, there was a "blink and you'll miss it" show that wasn't any sort of institution. It's A Living, starring Ann Jillian is an example of a sitcom that lasted a couple seasons and then found its way to the "where are they now?" bin. New faces mixed with old on that star-studded sparkling set. Ricardo Montalban, whose career began in the 1940s can be seen dancing on the same stage as Burgess Meredith, who began his life on screen a few years before. We recognized them as the host of Fantasy Island and Those Amazing Animals! respectively. Yes, that's Tom Hanks, long before he was collecting Oscars, promoting his show Bosom Buddies. And under a hiatus-worth of beard and hair you can make out The Fonz, Henry Winkler. 

If you were so inclined. My wife, who is two years younger than I am let me know she had no real interest in guessing who was whom. She lives in a world with more choices of viewing than she currently has time. She did not feel the same siren's call to the wayback machine. That was long ago and far away. It was a time when there was an actual Battle of these same Network Stars. And do I remember Howard Cosell ingratiating himself to any and all who gave him the opportunity during the broadcast? You bet I do. 

But this is where I live. The past. The all-singing, all-dancing promotional video for a life lived in front of a cathode ray tube. 

Look it up. 

Saturday, July 30, 2022


 My wife saw them first. The kids from across the street. We were on our way out for our first post-COVID excursion, when she spotted them. Except they weren't kids. Not anymore. Now in their twenties and thirties, they showed up as taller memories. I rolled down my window and they stepped off the curb to talk to us. 

"We were on our way down to your house," they began, "We have some bad news."

This is the family that had only recently lost their mother to COVID. Not too long ago. At that time, my wife reconnected with all those kids once again. They hadn't gone so far away that they were impossible to track down. Most of them live within a couple miles of the house in which they had grown up. 

Across the street from us. 

And now they were back. The news wasn't more COVID. It was their sister. She had been found in her trailer. Dead. Foul play was suspected. And suddenly her life was a tragic story that ended tragically. She was the middle kid. She was the one who wanted to be a pediatrician. She was the one who came over to our house when she was in grade school to help my wife with our little baby. She had plenty of experience with all those siblings. She helped teach our son to walk. She was a shining light of help in our new neighborhood. 

When she got a little older, she ended up having babies of her own. Some might say too soon, since she had to put her dreams of becoming a doctor on hold. And her relationships with the kids' father faltered along with that with her own parents. 

She struggled. And she worked. And she may have triumphed. If she had the chance. 

Our hearts broke, not for the first time, but in a way that was much more dark and final than all those other disappointments. Another sister. Another mother. Sacrificed to the ugly realities of life on these streets. Our street. I thought about Tolstoy's families, happy and unhappy. In their own way. 

Monica stomped on the Terra, but in the end the Terra won. She will be missed. Every time we go for a walk on our street. 

Friday, July 29, 2022

From The Edge

 It's not really a slow slide. It is more like someone left the door open and work just wandered in. The emails. The texts. The requests for my time. The time I had been parceling out in little dollops between actively recovering from Covid and staying on top of the daily chores around the house. A meeting here, a phone call there. Not much to squeal about. 


I know that the calendar will change and the page that said "summer" on it will fall to the floor. I hope I have time to bend down and pick it up before the whole commotion begins in earnest. Somewhere out there class lists are being prepared. Numbers are being reviewed and rooms are being set up with what we hope to be the proper combination of desks and chairs. 

Three less rooms than last year. Three less teachers. The "science" of staffing an elementary school continues to be alarmingly inaccurate. The predictions based on last year's trends and the attendance we were able to achieve in the year following being online full-time will give us a starting point. That and the fact that the student assignment office was actively discouraging families from signing up to our school because "you know they're going to close." 

And yet, those of us who continue to be assigned to teach at Horace Mann Elementary are currently wringing the last bit of vacation from our week and beginning the quiet contemplation of working in a school with the looming specter of this being the last year. The last set of class lists. The last batch of name tags. The last introductions to the bathrooms, the cafeteria, and the poor old playground. 

It is during this time each year that I have felt a tug of anxiety as I prepare for my umpteenth "first day of school." This year will be different, because first and last will be mixed together in unsavory ways. But we won't show it. Kids still need to read. Kids still need to multiply. Kids still need to go to school. We are going to give them that chance. 

The countdown continues. 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Not Now

 I would have guessed at this point that there would be a bit of pushback. The "news shows" that ask us to laugh along with the tears. The ones that were pioneered by Jon Stewart, back in the day. Oh, and I am not silly enough to think that Mister Stewart could not have reached his lofty perch without standing on the shoulders of personages like Mort Sahl, Dick Gregory, and The Smothers Brothers. Jon spawned his own cottage industry of successors when he stepped down from his "anchor desk." John Oliver, Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee, correspondents from The Daily Show, all found their way to late night talk shows of their own. This trend was compounded by the re-emergence of their old show with a new host, Trevor Noah, as well as The Problem with Jon Stewart on Apple TV and your local podcast outlet.

Eventually, the herd would need to be thinned. In the world of television, very few go quietly, and fewer still go quickly. Which is why I was surprised to see a tweet Monday morning announcing that Full Frontal with Samantha Bee would not be returning this fall. Sam and her crew will not be back to help carry us through the 2022 midterms. Or the continuing saga of the January 6th Committee. Her employer, Atlanta's TBS made their announcement this way: “As we continue to shape our new programming strategy, we’ve made some difficult, business-based decisions." On her Twitter feed, Sam said goodbye this way: "We’re so thankful for our loyal audience, our amazing team, and that we got to annoy the right people every week — that there wasn’t wrestling or baseball or a very special episode of Big Bang.”

This comes at a moment when TBS and its twin sister TNT have become merged with Discovery, and all scripted series development for both Ts were put on hold. Even if those scripted series were the recipient of eleven Emmy nominations over the past seven years. Even if that means silencing one of the only woman's voice in the late-night talk-show-sphere. Given the way the country is currently running roughshod over women in ways that scream "please give us a spot on the schedule," this is nothing but a tragedy.

Yes, I understand "business decision," and I can only assume that Samantha Bee's program did not always engender a ton of commercial support from the corporate beings that fund such things. Which I would argue is the reason why it should not disappear. Shining a light on the cockroaches scurrying for their dark corners was something that Sam and her show did better than most. She wore her heart on the sleeve of her blazer, which is something we need more of, not less. 

Or maybe, just maybe, it's time for Jon to get the band back together. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Little Rascals

 On behalf of all men, I feel compelled to apologize for Matt Gaetz. The "representative" from Florida used his seven minutes at the Student Action Summit in his home state to blather on about the people who protest for reproductive rights are not in danger of becoming pregnant because of their looks. Not all of us are blessed with the coverboy looks of Matt Gaetz. Happily. And he seems to have missed the logical fallacy in his argument: Looks have nothing to do with the female reproductive system. Just like his chiseled features and high forehead does not translate into any sort of extra virility. Again, I am sorry for any confusion or hurt that this tiny mind may have sprayed, or will probably continue to spray as a result of his affiliation with the He-Man Woman Haters Club. 

For those of you unfamiliar, the origins of the He-Man Woman Haters Club go back to 1937. It was a simpler time, but just as confounding for many. Alfalfa was hoping to connect with Darla, a strong woman of her time, but his looming appointment as president of the HMWHC conflicted mightily with such an interaction. His pal Spanky, for one, was almost certain to look down on him for dismissing his oath and thereby bringing down the entire organization. It is only after Spanky and his sergeant at arms are lured to Darla's house to find out what Alfalfa has been up to that they are ensnared by the feminine wiles of Darla, and the President of the He-Man Woman Haters Club. In drag. In the end, it turns out that being able to share cookies and ice cream with whomever one chooses is the best course of action.

Reproductive rights didn't come up in the course of this Our Gang short, but I can't help but see the template for today's Republican Party on display here. The need for wild-eyed caricaturing to achieve points that are far too subtle for tiny minds to comprehend. I would not limit this kind of grotesque speech to carnivals held in Florida, but it sure does have a way of being echoed down there. The former game show host and twice impeached "president" used the occasion of his ex-wife Ivana's death to do a little fundraising, for example. This thrice-married serial philanderer continues to stand as the figurehead of a herd of cartoonish nimrods looking to return to a time that never really existed in the first place. And for this, the leader of the January 6th insurrection believes he is due a Congressional Medal of Honor. If only he could have awarded it to himself. 

Spanky confronted Alfalfa: "What about your promise to the He-Man Woman Haters Club?"

"Spanky," Alfalfa responds, "I've got my own life to lead."

In a world full of Spanky, be and Alfalfa. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Broken In

 The news came in via text: Our school had a break-in last week. In late July, it is as empty as it ever is, with just a couple weeks to go before we fire up the engines to take it back on the road. Our custodian, who had completed the deep cleaning in June was not around to witness the event. Our principal, gearing back up to a desk full of paperwork and staffing puzzles that will be sorted out as the doors fly open to greet a new school year took the news from authorities "downtown" who were monitoring the alarm and security cameras. 

The perpetrators were described as teenagers. I would like to believe that these were some of our old students, anxious to take one last look around their school before heading off to new educational experiences. This is somehow preferable to the idea of strangers crawling into the staff lunchroom and tossing things around. 

What were they hoping to find? We no longer store the Lost Ark of the Covenant in our book room. The Crown Jewels are on loan to a middle school across town. The burglars did not seem interested in the collection of broken printers stored in a corner next to the refrigerator. And the refrigerator is currently empty of popsicles for those Friday afternoon treats. Which probably explains the rage needed to throw things about the room. They risked all that danger and potential incarceration and came away without popsicles? Of course they needed to break stuff. 

The interesting thing for me is that even though I am in the last throes of my own summer break, and would like to imagine that the furthest thing from my mind is Horace Mann Elementary, I still flinched when I read the news. My home away from home was violated. Not for the first time, but I started to piece together the world in which I might not return myself. The 2022-23 school year is slated to be the last for Horace Mann. It is possible that next July the place will be even more empty than it is currently. The broken printers will be hauled off, at last. The refrigerator, the one I got donated so that teachers could keep those aforementioned frozen treats cold when the old one passed on, will be carted away to someone else's lounge. Or used to store the tender feelings of the students, staff and family who called it their school for so many years. 

Maybe I shouldn't care so much. But I don't think that's an option. 

Monday, July 25, 2022


 Watching the video of Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz with his head down, eyes closed, and his thumbs in his ears while recordings of his confessed murders played in the courtroom made me wonder if he hoped that he might turn invisible. It's a trick we all try to play when we are three or four. If I can't see you, then of course you can't see me. I'm invisible. 

Once you get a little older, you know that's not how it works. Still, when we throw around suggestions for super powers, invisibility comes up frequently. Given a choice, I'm still going with flying, but I can see the appeal. It shows up in Harry Potter, too. Toss this cloak over your head and you disappear. Now you can sneak around wherever you'd like without worry for being detected. 

Unless you sneeze. Or kill seventeen people. It's pretty difficult to disappear after you have shot up a school and murdered more than a dozen of your classmates. In many of these events, it is that precise moment when the cloak of invisibility is torn off to reveal the twisted individual beneath. 

And now Nikolas Cruz seems to want to return to the shadows. 

Can't get the ketchup back into the bottle. The bullets back into the gun. Souls back into the victims' bodies.

If you scroll down to the bottom of these stories and look at the suggestions from casual readers who have ideas about how to best deal with Nikolas and others like him, it starts to come clear why we might all be better off if there was a way to take care of this business off camera. The righteous anger directed at this individual who now carries the stain of his crime as well as being the object of a system that cannot figure itself out is apparent in comments describing what citizens believe should be done with the confessed killer. Outside of the life in prison without parole or death sentence. Torture, both emotional and physical seem to be on most of the respondent's minds, and that's when I start to wonder how thin the line is between thought and deed. 

And then I am struck by the everlasting reality of being the one who destroyed all those lives. Nikolas Cruz will never be invisible again. 

No matter how hard he closes his eyes. Or who does it for him. 

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Hobbes Came Home


I have lost track of how many times my son's 1989 Toyota Supra has made its way back to our driveway. He bought it back when he was seventeen. For the past eight years, he has rolled from home. First from school, then from college. And now he is prepping his automotive friend for yet another voyage: away from home once again. 

There was a time when there was grave uncertainty about whether our son would be able to achieve escape velocity. He was very much a homebody who enjoyed the comfort of knowing exactly where everyone and everything was. Not a huge fan of adventures that took him away from his the things he loved the most. That is where Hobbes stepped in. Named for Calvin's ubiquitous tiger friend, Hobbes was the stuffed animal that he could take with him to the dorms. He was the cocoon for those lonely autumn nights when loneliness crept in. 

Keeping a car from another century on the road is a challenge in the most relaxed circumstances, but somewhere in there my son got the wild notion that this late model sports car could really use a bigger engine, and so he bought the corpse of a Lexus with a V8 and proceeded to take the year after he graduated from college to make the transference. 

As I have mentioned in this space before, I have very little automotive knowledge other than that which has been patiently spoon-fed to me by my son. Changing oil is something that can be done by the folks at Jiffy-Lube. The only sound I notice my engine making is when it stops making noise. This, for me is a bad sign. My son often diagnoses other's car trouble as we drive past them on the highway. Creating the Super Supra Hobbes was a challenge, but one he seems to have been destined. 

Eventually, he got himself a deal on another Lexus. Another V8. This was for the commutes he imagined himself making at some point. Hobbes waited patiently on the street or in the garage, knowing that when it was time for a show, he would be polished up and made ready. It was on one of these track experiences that he fell ill. A transmission difficulty. Hobbes would not move. For several months, Hobbes sat on a driveway in Santa Cruz. Meanwhile, Covid surged and unemployment plagued and all manner of other things kept the two of them apart. 

Finally, my son passed his physical, signed a contract and rejoined the ranks of the cash enabled. He bought the forty dollar part that would bring Hobbes roaring back to life and the two were reunited once again. In our driveway. 

Not long from now, my son and Hobbes will back down that driveway once again, off to more adventures tempting time and fate, but with a socket set and a working knowledge of the 1989 Supra owner's manual that rivals that of the folks who wrote it. I am expecting that my son will drive me to my funeral in his car. Because that is how things work in our driveway. 

Saturday, July 23, 2022


 I've been stuck in the house with Covid for (checks watch) about seventeen years now, and I keep wondering if I am missing anything in the "real world." When I can scroll past all the updates on Ben and Jen or photos of Elon Musk's alien physique, I discover that there is a lot of awful still to be found in what is left of our world. 

There is still a war going on in Ukraine. People are dying. Every day

The globe is heating up. People are dying. Every day

I suppose the flipside of this is that civilians continue to get married. Every day. And alien physiques are on display all over. partly in response to climate change. 

For every Kylie Jenner ten-minute jet flight to go shopping at Target, there are thousands more of us using paper straws and using gray water to grow our own vegetables. While we stare in disbelief at what our elected officials are doing and saying, there are hundreds of viable candidates from which we can choose in the next election. Currently, I am sick and tired of being sick, but because of the work and sacrifices of medical professionals I am frustrated by my illness. I am not dying. 

I believe it is important to keep this even-handed perspective as we continue to make this trip together. Our accommodations may vary, but we are all in the same boat. I know that things look a lot different from down here in steerage, but something that becomes more apparent almost daily is the way that a ship without enough lifeboats sinks. The trick isn't really to get more lifeboats. The trick is to make sure that the ship doesn't sink in the first place. Once upon a time, the Titanic was named just that because it was believed to be superior to anything else on the sea. Now that name is synonymous with catastrophic failure. 

Someday, James Cameron will make a movie about The Earth. Hopefully it will end more like Avatar. 

And star Ben and Jen.  

Friday, July 22, 2022

Spare Time

 So, the upside of having Covid (a phrase that only semi-professional optimists can use) seems to be the enforced nature of low-impact activity. For example, it was thanks to this energy-sucking disease that I found myself with just enough strength to let the entire first season of Abbott Elementary wash over me in a binge. A sitcom centered on the lives of teachers in an urban school was just the right connection to my real life and gave me the lack of strength to simply let the next episode roll on. Twelve seconds is not a very long time to make decisions when fully alive and alert, but the little countdown clock in the upper right hand corner of the screen just brought calm reassurance that I would be spending another twenty-four minutes of my convalescence safe in the warm glow of the protective rays of TV. 

Eventually, however, evolution forced me into an upright position, one that puts me on a path back to my desk, where the computer is waiting. Here I can give the illusion of being productive, even if it's just another level of Candy Crush Soda Saga. Or maybe some in-depth googling of this and that. For example, I was finally afforded the opportunity to click on that travel suggestion about taking a crayon with you in your wallet. It seemed like a big deal, since the link said "Always carry a crayon in your wallet." Always. After some preliminary confusion, it became clear that the primary reasons for sticking a Crayola in your wallet were 1) to keep your credit cards straight and safe, and 2) in case you found yourself in a foreign country with no rudimentary understanding of the language, you could take out your waxy implement and draw simple figures that you could point to asking "bathroom? coffee?" If I am ever allowed to leave the house again, these are watchwords for my future. Always. 

Speaking of leaving the house, I also found that there is a world of celebrity fun and adventure going on while I am busy waiting for my next ibuprofen. Ben and J-Lo got married in Las Vegas. That seemed like a big deal for a lot of people. Ripples from that were felt far and wide by people stuck behind their computers without the chance to trot off to Sin City to legitimize the romance of the decade. If that decade was two decades ago. Bravo, I say for living a life that can consume twenty years of tabloid journalism. Twenty years is a long time. Ten minutes is not. Ten minutes is the length of several private jet trips taken by Kylie Jenner. When you own a seventy million dollar private jet, why not use it? That forty-five minute drive becomes a seventeen minute hop from one corner of the LA basin to another. 

Baby, I'm not sick. That's sick. And not in a good way. 

Candy Crush doesn't make my head hurt. 

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Something Right

 Wandering through my house, as I tend to do after having contracted the disease that seemingly everyone else on the planet seems to have had or is about to have, I stopped in what felt to me like the geographic center of our home. In front of the bookcase in the living room, the one closer to the kitchen. I stood there for a moment trying to assess my feelings. At the top of the pile was the physical rot of COVID with its lethargy and snot. That was obviously weighing on me, but there was something just below it. Something much bigger. 

Two years ago, my son moved back home, our home, to wait out the very uncomfortable and perplexing moments after being released from college with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in theater, smack in the middle of a global pandemic when theaters were closing their doors and jobs in America were disappearing. This resilient little cuss built himself a batcave in the basement, and began to piece together his life. Life on hold. 

There were days when we had to walk around that not-so-fresh feeling of having our adult son living downstairs. It became apparent to us all rather quickly why people tend to leave their family home after a certain age. Friendly reminders to pick up one's room or to take out the recycling have a certain sting once you pass the age of twenty-one. Reminders to eat a salad were met with good humor and sense, and his mother and I want to believe that there were a number of good habits reinforced. 

Because now it's time to get ready to empty the nest again. Our little boy worked and worked at what his parents told him was the hardest job of all: finding a job. He did it. And he will be starting out at a salary higher than his father's was when he started teaching. He played this one just right. I was pleased and proud and relieved. So was his mother. So was he. 

And while I was standing there in front of the bookcase, trying to decide if it was worth blowing my nose one more time, I realized that I was sad. Sad to see him going off to live with some of his friends who had also recently unlocked the job puzzle. Starting a life so rudely interrupted by a plague. Sad to see him go but overwhelmed by the excitement. 

I will always treasure this break in the normal broadcasting day, the one that gave us a chance to solidify connections. Not that I doubted them, but was so pleased to discover that we all really like each other after all of this sturm und drang. I know that he can find his way home again, if he needs to. I know that he loves his family. I know that I will miss him when he's gone. 

We must have done something right. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

It Happens To Me

 For more than two years, I have kept myself safe and clear of COVID. That all ended this past week when I at last became the lucky recipient of the plague. 

There is a lot of speculation around our house about who got what when, but I will not rule out the cat. What frustrates me most is the number of times I was sure that I was going to get that second stripe on my rapid test, but there was none forthcoming. Yea though I walked through the valley of germs, I received no evil. I worked at an elementary school where I waded through snotty noses and coughs with an air of invulnerability. While others went down and out and stayed in quarantine for days at a time, I kept showing up, certain that one of those two tests a week would come back positive. "Pull your mask up," was the phrase that pays in the hallways and classrooms, and even the playground as we made every effort to keep us all safe and disease free. 

When my wife got her symptoms, and then her extra stripe on her test, we sent her to her room and spent the next few days shouting at one another through the door. We took our meals separately. We delivered supplies while we both wore masks and played a game that felt like we had things under control. A game that pretty much discounted the week we spent hanging around with each other after she returned from Italy, where COVID is an international symbol of friendship. 

So, I have a couple of takeaways: First of all, I am relieved that this did not take place while school was in session. If I am going to loll about my house watching Netflix and reruns of NFL games from last year, this would be the best time for it. Second, I spent a few days at Disneyland in late June and managed to steer clear of all manner of phlegmy things. My son and I were hyper-vigilant about masking even though our fellow visitors at the House of Mouse seemed to be less concerned. 

It wasn't until I got home and the streams of Southern California and Europe were mixed that the door finally caught me on the way out. My symptoms have not been debilitating, but the blow to my ego has been somewhat catastrophic. I am now part of a club that I never wanted to have me as a member. I have made a life's work out of not succumbing to peer pressure, and suddenly I find myself on the ground floor, looking up. 

Here is the best news: This is 2022. My current illness is an annoyance, and even though I took all the shots and precautions that I might have, I feel frustrated. I don't feel like I am going to die. I look forward to the story I can write about recovering from COVID. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The Way It Is

 There is no real surprise to the HBO's scheduling All The President's Men in heavy rotation this month. You can usually find it at an hour or during a day when the January 6th Committee is not meeting. The story of how two reporters from the Washington Post helped bring down one of the most corrupt administrations in U.S. history should be required viewing for Americans across this great land of ours. 

Of course time has not necessarily been kind to reporters. Journalists were once hailed as the protectors of our freedoms. These days we spend about as much time investigating our journalists as they do investigating the truth, as subjective as that might be. Once upon a time, Walter Cronkite could sign off by saying, "And that's the way it is," without a trace of irony. When Woodward and Bernstein broke the story about just how high up the conspiracy connected to the Watergate break-in went, there was skepticism, but in the end the facts checked out and Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace. It should be further noted that this happened even though the Washington Post and its editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee had already shown off his liberal stripes when he chose to publish the Pentagon Papers just a few years before Watergate. 

Yes, dear reader, there was a time when a newspaper could bring down a sitting American president. Over the past six years, we have watched as a former game show host and adulterer rose to the highest office in the land and proceeded to make more of a mess of things than Richard Nixon ever imagined. 

And nothing happened. 

Okay, that's not entirely true. The former game show host was impeached. Twice. But in spite of overwhelming evidence and surging public opinion, he was able to hold on to his office and the minions who surrounded him. So secure was this dangerous twit in his apparent inculpability that he decided to try his hand at doing Richard Nixon one better by not just influencing the outcome of a free and fair election but to overturn the results. Because he lost. Somehow this maleficent ninny escaped prosecution and has been allowed to continue to influence political contests across the country for the past two years. There has been no retreat to his beachfront property. No disgrace. Just continued promises that he's not done yet. 

No matter what the press has to say about him. Bob Woodward, now looks back at the reporting he did in 1972 seemed like connecting the dots compared to the outrages of "president" 45. He and his partner Carl Bernstein have been making the circuit of news shows over the past couple months as still more evidence gets stacked up in front of the "Trump Legacy." How could they have imagined that fifty years later an American "president" could be called out in the way this one has - and still be talking loudly about how he'd like another run at it. 

And that's the way it is, July 2022. 

Monday, July 18, 2022

Holding Out For A Hero

 Too Darn Hot.

Havin' A Heat Wave. 

The Heat Is On. 

Senator Joe Manchin is a pinhead. The first three are song titles. This last one is a fact. This one Democratic senator chose to block legislation that would have forced power plants to clean up their climate altering pollution. He broke up an effort to help consumers pay for electric vehicles. And he said he could not support government incentives for solar and wind companies. 

Did I mention that Joe Manchin made his millions, before becoming a senator for the great state of West Virginia, got his hands dirty in his home state's favorite industry, coal mining. On top of that, you can go ahead an pile the campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry that are far and away more than any other senator and you've got a pretty clear picture of what is going on here. 

Oh, and he has three children. Ten grandchildren. And a will to stand still while the planet on which they live continues to teeter on the brink of becoming uninhabitable. 

One more thing: Joe is a Democrat. Had he voted for any of those previously stated proposals, the tiny advantage held by his party in the Senate could have been overcome by the deciding vote from the president of the Senate in the person of Vice President Kamala Harris. 

Maybe the fact that Joe is even more popular in his home state with Republicans than those who call themselves Democrats. Which becomes a essentially unimportant because he still captures the votes of a majority of Democrats too. West Virginia loves them some Joe Manchin. 

There are not a lot of polar bears living in West Virginia. Chances are the hold that Joe Manchin maintains over the rest of The Mountain State would extend to them, even as the skies blacken and the temperature continues to rise. Somewhere in that tiny brain is a signal that keeps getting through about "the will of the people." West Virginia is encouraging him to continue to stand in the way of any meaningful advances by our government on climate change. 

Last time I checked, West Virginia had children. A bunch of them. And even more grandchildren. Maybe they could change their state song to Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire." Or get rid of their senator. 

Sunday, July 17, 2022


 Let's talk meta for a second.

Okay, we're not going to talk so much as I am going to write and you will eventually read. And depending on your interest level and speed reading skill it will probably take more than a second. 

See, right there I just did something "meta." I popped out of the traditional reality of you reading and me writing to break down this fourth (fifth?) wall between us to discuss the act in which we are participating rather than simply providing content you can feel comfortable with. It makes us both feel very clever, doesn't it? That may be the reason why Mark Zuckerberg, who never had an original thought in his life, decided to rename his company "Meta." Very subtle, Mark. Right up there with dropping the indefinite article turning his "invention" into just Facebook. Because The Facebook was just too clumsy. 

But Mark is not alone in all this meta-business. The world is full now of self-referential media that is meant to cause us all to reflect on just how full of media our lives truly are. Have you noticed how many people are talking directly to the camera these days? Suddenly I am being drawn into a place where I do not feel completely comfortable. I am sharing secrets with very rich "celebrities" and characters in sitcoms. I don't know about you, but I was much more comfortable when I was an outside observer. I don't want to be in a relationship with these people. 

Of course, this isn't to say that I am completely devoid of interest in all things meta. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become a seemingly endless flurry of self-referential connectitude. The more you watch, the more clued-in you feel. Reboots and prequels and the like begin to spiral out of control until the only possible defense is simply to go with the flow and recognize that I bought the ticket and I am on the ride. Even when I am outside the theater standing in line. 

Then there is the lengthy discussion about "fake news," which puts us all in one bin or another depending on which network we feel is bringing us "truthiness," a term coined by meta-newsman Stephen Colbert back when he was portraying a character known as Stephen Colbert. Faux News continues to get around this distinction by insisting that a great chunk of their programming is "entertainment" and not news, so they can feel free to bend facts in whatever shape they please. Depending whom you believe, Alex Jones is either a conspiracy peddler or an actor portraying a conspiracy peddler, depending on whether you're talking to Alex Jones or Alex Jones. 

For me, one of the more challenging bits of the metaverse appears as the sitcom from Ukraine titled Servant of the People. It stars comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a high school history teacher who finds himself elected to the presidency. Of Ukraine. Which seems about as likely as a comedian ascending to the same office. It should be noted that nobody in the sitcom dies in a rocket attack. Mass casualty events are pretty hard to do meta. I guess that's how we know which one is the real world. 

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Chicken Coup

Tapper: "One doesn't have to be brilliant to attempt a coup."

Bolton: "I disagree with that. As somebody who has helped plan coups d'etat -- not here, but, you know, other places -- it takes a lot of work. And that's not what he did. It was just stumbling around from one idea to another. "

That was CNN's Jake Tapper talking last week with former National Security Administration chief John Bolton reflecting on Tuesday's testimony at the January 6th Committee Hearings. It is a bit of a mic-drop moment, potentially, for Mister Bolton. It is also the precise moment that every American who witnessed this moment should have felt a sharp pain in their temples. 

Break it down: The former National Security Administration advisor was not under oath for anything, and he just tossed out that he had experience planning coups d'etat. Not just one, but plural. He was criticizing his former boss for not being more efficient in his efforts to overturn democracy. Back that up again: Is this a brag on Bolton's part, or macho fabrication? Is he suggesting that if only the former game show host and twice impeached "president had solicited advice from this master of the coup d'etat that the results would have been much different? 

Shouldn't this guy be in jail? 

Then again, this is the question that rings throughout this entire process. Video and audio recordings of laws being broken, witnesses lining up to corroborate the circumstances, and hundreds of foot soldiers and window breakers have been arrested and sentenced, but the big fish continue to swim free. Because, like Quint and Hooper and Chief Brody, they're after that really big fish. Meanwhile, that really big fish is contemplating announcing his run for the presidency in 2024. 

How can this be? Isn't there a system in place somewhere that can just hold these people accountable for their actions and we can all move along with the messy business of putting the republic back together? Are we really going to give these idjits another shot at a coup d'tetat? 

Sleep tight, America. 

Friday, July 15, 2022


 The Governor of California just signed into law a bill that would allow those who have been affected by gun violence to sue irresponsible gun manufacturers and distributors. Governor Newsom introduced the new law by saying that other industries are culpable when their products end up harming consumers. Which is why they have things like recalls on cars whose wheels fly off at high speeds. Or why we have those aggravating childproof caps on medicine bottles. If they didn't, there would be a lawsuit. Child Resistant packaging has been required by law in the United States since 1972. Lug nuts have been required on cars since before that. 

But the part that pinches my brain just a little is the thought of attorneys for the gun industry arguing against this measure. I confess that the idea of a "gun industry" at all makes my head hurt. That there is a marketing program hard at work for every gun manufacturer whose sole function is to get us to buy more guns. If you were to go into the way back machine, you would find a time in our country where gun manufacturers sold guns primarily during wars, when you might need them. For killing the enemy. Once the war was over, there wouldn't be as big a market, save for the rifles used by farmers and more rustic individuals who might need them as tools for providing food. I am guessing that whoever came up with the idea of "needing" a gun for "personal protection" outside of the constraints of wartime, for killing the enemy, got a raise and a corner office. The idea that we could all use a gun because it turns out that the enemy during peace time is your neighbor seems as irresponsible as skipping the aforementioned lug nuts on your new Chevy pickup truck. 

Which probably has a lot to do with the one hundred-plus Americans who die every day because from gun violence. As I typed that last phrase "gun violence," I chided myself for falling into the semantic pit of the vermin who continue to make tens of billions of dollars each year. What else do guns do but create violence? Then there's the creepy phrase "responsible gun owners." By my reckoning, these are the folks who never use their guns for their intended purpose: To maim and kill. Bringing me back to the whole notion of when it would be appropriate to sue a gun manufacturer: When the gun you hoped would kill or maim did not fulfill your needs. "Your honor, when I went to pop a cap in this fellow human being, rather than spraying hot lead, my Compensator 400 emitted a faint squeal and out popped a flag from the end of the barrel that read 'bang.'"

Meanwhile, without any effective TV or magazine advertising, the gun makers have a pretty amazing plan. All these candidates for public office who are happy to show off their wares in their campaign advertisements. And in case you missed any of those, there is a regular news segment called "This Week's Mass Shooting" that keeps us all in the loop. The sad, twisted, bloody loop. 

Thursday, July 14, 2022


 When is a crime not a crime? Well, if TV and movies have taught me anything, it's not a crime when it is perpetrated by very good looking people. This is why George Clooney and Brad Pitt were able to rob all those casinos. If they had put craggy old Carl Reiner in charge, there's no way they would have gotten away with it. 

I figure this is why, when I imagine the bad people who swindled five thousand dollars out of my bank account, I picture ugly people with skin conditions and bad posture. Because my bank was able to reimburse me for being (momentarily) so dull as to give these ugly bad people access to my bank account, I have gone ahead and imagined that sometime shortly after that, the FBI broke down their door, handcuffed all those involved, and put them in a bad ugly place for a good long time. 

When we see crooks on TV that are good looking, they're almost always working to right some wrong, even though they are working on the wrong side of the law. Invariably, the cops that become in these schemes are dim and overwhelmed and never as good looking as the crook with the heart of gold. Which brings me to this firsts conclusion: Why not just fork over that heart of gold to pay for whatever injustice or malfeasance has occurred?

Back to Mister Clooney. As Danny Ocean, we meet him shortly after his release from prison, wearing the so-very-slightly-rumpled tuxedo which we infer he must have been wearing when he was tossed into the hoosegow. I rent tuxedos. And after I wear them, they get returned in a wad that I can only assume will need some sort of molecular level of cleaning and pressing in order to be worn by anyone ever again. This is why I have no plans to knock over the Bellagio anytime soon. 

Oh - and because that would be stealing. I understand that Andy Garcia's character, the not-nearly-as-good-looking-but-still-on-the-spectrum Terry Benedict, deserves to have all that money taken away from him because he was dating Julia Roberts while Mister Clooney/Ocean was in prison. But there's some inferred Robin Hood business going on here. Somehow these merry men are going to take from the rich and give to the fund that keeps them in fake passports and Chinese acrobats. Those schlubs who invested in the casino may or may not get reimbursed, and Terry Benedict can always pull the protective sheet of bankruptcy over his head, but you can be sure that there will be plenty of blackjack dealers, floor security and cocktail waitresses who got laid off as a result of this feel-good caper. 

None of whom were nearly as good looking as Brad Pitt or the always appealing and easy on the eyes George Clooney. Looking that good ought to be a crime. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Send In The Clowns

 Let's see here: Elon Musk has decided not to buy Twitter for forty-four billion dollars. The really difficult part about that is all the time people spent worrying about how that one slice of Al Gore's Internet would be forever ruined by the world's richest man using it as his personal dumping/play ground. Concerns about Jeff Bezos owning the Washington Post continue to downplayed as the reality of clowns with money remain clowns, even if the tiny cars in which they ride are more expensive. Meanwhile, one of the richest men in the world, at least by his own account, Donald "Jillionaire" Trump continues to snicker at them both from his rhinestone-encrusted bunker. 

If you're confused by all these oligarchs and their shifting alliances, you are not alone. It was only recently that Monsieur Musk announced to anyone who would listen that he was going to start voting Republican and that he was leaning toward Florida's "governor" Ronnie DeSantis in the 2024 presidential election. Which confuses things for all those Trumpsters (rhymes with "dumpsters") who looked to Monsieur Musk to be the one who would purchase Twitter and unleash their big fat orange Kraken on the the unsuspecting Twittersphere. thereby paving the way for the big fat orange Kraken to storm back into the halls of power. 

Of course the more direct route would be a forty-four billion dollar offer from Donald "Jiggy" Trump for Twitter and then he could make, and break, all the rules. But as it turns out Donald Kraken doesn't have that kind of capital. Or capitol, for that matter. He doesn't have enough money to spend on his own space ship, but he did talk the U.S. armed forces into making him a keen "Space Force" patch for his jacket. It was one of the many great things that he offered up as part of a plan to make America appear great again. Even if it wasn't really great. 

Not that the orange sack of mostly water doesn't have a legacy. He finagled three Supreme Court Justices out of one term. Given the former game show host and twice impeached "president's" overall health, it seems likely that those three Justices will outlive him. That's something that money can't buy. Well, it can. And it did. 

Meanwhile, Bezos The Very Rich Clown has taken it upon himself to taunt President Biden about gasoline prices. The fact that he runs his business at full-profit-throttle and has made more money over the past quarter than God. Last week Biden tweeted “My message to the companies running gas stations and setting prices at the pump is simple: this is a time of war and global peril. Bring down the price you are charging at the pump to reflect the cost you’re paying for the product. And do it now.” Bezos (the very rich clown) countered (on Twitter) "Ouch. Inflation is far too important a problem for the White House to keep making statements like this. It’s either straight ahead misdirection or a deep misunderstanding of basic market dynamics."

Or maybe it's a bunch of guys with way too much money and access to Twitter. Maybe we should hold out for a "people's Twitter," where only those who have missed a payment on something can take part. And we can continue to make fun of those clowns and their tiny but very expensive cars. And big shoes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022


 Here's an interesting thing about America: We can care about Supreme Court rulings at the same time that we fret about the decisions handed down by the jury in the Amber Heard/Johnny Depp case. 

To be clear, I still don't know exactly what was going on between Amber and Johnny, and I am sure that a little bit of actual reading on the matter could clear this up.

But I don't want to. 

Meanwhile, I know that the courts in these United States are as full as they have ever been with this kind of litigation and that. We have a system of appellate courts that exist solely to hear arguments about how those initial decisions were wrong and how justice isn't served until it's had every last one of its avenues run. It is very different from the way we deal with things on the elementary playground. Rock, paper, scissors. One time. If that won't work for you, you can always go play soccer instead of four square or the other way 'round if that will seal the deal before we reach the end of recess. 

But I digress. I suppose I have a certain amount of respect for anyone who will take their case to The Supreme Court. The highest court in the land. So high, in fact that they don't hear a case that doesn't somehow involve the Constitution. Their job, as I understand it, is to interpret the Constitution and apply it to issues like gun control and a woman's right to choose. These nine judges are not elected but rather appointed after undergoing extreme and many would say impartial vetting. I wouldn't say that. I would say it's a partisan practice that creates a teeter-totter effect that has recently been played like a chess game to alter the world in which we live. At some point, it's possible that Johnny and Amber may have their disagreements aired in front of the Supremes. So that justice can prevail. 

Or you could drop by the playground and we can settle things before the bell rings. 

Monday, July 11, 2022

Smug Alert

 I will admit that there is a special and unique confidence that comes from living in California. We've got legalized marijuana and I'm pretty sure same-sex marriage was invented here. We are a sanctuary for immigrants and refugees and those who have tired of the reality in their less-than-enlightened states. We've got a bear on our flag. And just in case someone missed the difference, our governor recently sent out a campaign video. To air in Florida. the punchline? "Join us in California."

It is at this precise moment that I am having conversations with others about what could happen if the states stopped being so united. Maybe we'll get lucky and we won't have another Civil War. Maybe states will just drift away from one another in a mutual agreement that "things just didn't work out between us." We'll keep Disneyland, thanks. And the ocean. Oh, and the fifth largest economy in the world, thank you very much. 

Please understand that I know that not every Californian sees eye to eye with every other Californian. I was impressed once again by the number of signs decrying the water policies of the environmentalists who can't seem to find a way to legitimize diverting even more water to grow almonds in the San Joaquin Valley. It takes more than one gallon to grow an almond. Singular. We are currently living through a drought of increasingly epic proportions. Maybe we could go without almonds for a while? 

So maybe the almond farmers won't want to get on the secessionist bandwagon. And Tim Allen. He seems to be a little hurt still about being passed over for the voice-acting job for Lightyear. If you don't feel like hanging around, we're not going to harsh on anyone's buzz. If you'll pardon the pun. He might end up in that red pool of the central valley, surrounded by all the other nuts. Metaphorically speaking. 

This setup might not be too very different from the conundrum that will likely occur in Texas as the Lone Star state returns to its etymological roots. All those weird folks in Austin will likely have to carve out their own weird quadrant to survive. Or maybe we can straight up trade some disgruntled almond farmers for the music and art crowd from Texas. 

I wouldn't want to sound too extreme. Just smug. 

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Vision Of The Future Passed

 There are some actors for whom I will watch an entire movie just to see their part. James Caan was one of those actors. Which means that there are more than one hundred different opportunities for me to toss the remote control over my shoulder and sit, transfixed as I watch the consummate tough guy wade into whatever it is that he is supposed to be for those two hours. Maybe a sailor. Or a cowboy. Or the hot-headed son of a Mafia boss. A best-selling author. The father of an elf. A thief. An assassin. A Chicago Bear. 

Or maybe the best Rollerballer who ever played the game. In 1975, my eyes were opened wide when my parents took me to see this R-rated vision of the future where "wars will no longer exist - but there will be Rollerball." I know how this one gets lumped into all those other visions of a future without wars but include some horrible alternative. Logan's Run. Soylent Green. Westworld. It's a little hard to believe that these movies were just a few years removed from the advent of Star Wars, when social commentary began to recede from science fiction again. I was thirteen when I saw Rollerball for the first time, and the future ruled by corporations instead of governments as an echo of Imperial Rome went right into me. James Caan played Jonathan E, the defining figure and chief gladiator of the sport. He played for Houston, and he was a champion's champion. Caan's imposing physical presence is everywhere in this film, and even when the costume designers did their very best to slide him into some absurd futuristic zippered jumpsuit, he made it work. Try as they might, the powers that be in the corporations kept changing the rules to make it impossible for Jonathan to survive. But he would not go away. Quietly or otherwise. 

Rollerball hipped me to the evils of the ruling class. It invigorated my love for Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, which served as "the corporate anthem." It also gave me my first taste of a font that continues to scream "the future" to this day. 

I could go on and on about the other James Caan roles that keep me planted on the couch for the duration. Frank, in Michael Mann's Thief, might have even fewer lines than Jonathan E, but he moves through that film with laser focus and a soundtrack that introduced me to Tangerine Dream. And poor Paul Sheldon who had the misfortune to be stuck in the care of his "number one fan." Even hobbled, I knew Jimmy Caan could not be stopped. 

Until now. James Caan stomped on the Terra. Hard. He was fierce, and he was a hero in which I could believe. He will be missed. Aloha, Mister Caan. 

Saturday, July 09, 2022

It's A Start

 I bought a pound of grass-fed beef today. It made me feel better about buying beef. It was the tiniest possible diversion I could take into my own consumer patterns. It was a very far cry from living in a world that has outlawed all other kinds of beef. Or one that has outlawed beef altogether. It was my part to keep random herds of free-range grass-eating cattle from overwhelming the planet. 

What if we all suddenly stopped eating beef? Where would all those cows go? Here you go, Bossie. You're free. Go about your life as if you were in India. Consider yourself sacred. What would become of the massive feedlot on Interstate Five? Would it be converted into some sort of bed and breakfast historical tourist attraction? 

Would all those cows eventually become more and more assertive, emboldened by their newfound non-food status? Would our streets start to look like Calcutta at rush hour? We've got a back up into the maze because of a bunch of meandering Herefords. Then, as if they had been watching old Monty Python skits, they might get it into their heads to organize, not unlike those apes who eventually took over the planet after we blew up the Statue of Liberty. 

There are more than thirty million beef cows in the United States. Giving them free rein, if you'll pardon the expression, might lead to some sort of cattle catastrophe. Would we all be asked to adopt a foster cow in order to stave off the crisis of all these wayward dogies. Over a period of years, life expectancy for longhorns and the like would expand until eventually they would begin to adapt and become more sentient. Evolution is inevitable, and before too long, we might have cows participating in the democratic process. No longer content to simple stand around in a field, they will begin to assert their place in the world. 

They might even ask for reparations. Who could blame them? I have personally done more damage to the cattle cause than some small nations. What could I do to make up for all the ways I have degraded and consumed all of their meaty lineage? 

Well, I suppose I could start by buying grass-fed beef. 

Friday, July 08, 2022

By The Numbers

 Lately I have noticed a tendency for those who like to argue about mass shootings to choose the path of comparing "street crime" and "gangs" alongside those events that are more typically considered in this category. The "lone gunman." The deviants who spend months or years planning their killing sprees in order to garner the highest body count or the most attention. I have, on occasion, told anyone who would listen that living in Oakland, California gives me a little bit of security on this account since most of our gun violence takes place in a very short window. Someone gets mad, on a street, in a car, late at night or early in the morning and they open fire. No meticulous planning with schematics and diaries. No social media bread crumbs. Just sudden and chaotic violence. 

Well, I'm here to tell you that these distinctions do not matter in the least. Rather than argue about which is worse, or even more bizarrely, which is better we should agree that there are too many guns. If there weren't, there would be no need for this distinction. Far too often we are offered up the factoid that "the gun (or guns) used were obtained legally." I have regularly opined form this cyber-soapbox about the fact that we can't get to our collective front door without tripping over all the guns and ammo. One hundred twenty guns for every one hundred humans crowded into these fifty states. And while everyone's attention seems to be drawn to those fascinating machines under the heading of "assault weapons," it is the garden variety handgun that leads the way when it comes to how we Americans kill one another. But the very last thing that we as a country are willing to do is ban handguns. Instead, we focus on what seems to most of us to be the most indefensible case: semi-automatic weapons, the kind you find on or near battlefields. Our school houses, parade routes, and grocery store parking lots are not battlefields.

We agree on this, right? 

Except we don't. We have this convenient (if you'll pardon the expression) target for our anger: The National Rifle Association. The leaders of this peculiar organization seem quite happily resolved to insist that any and all facts, polls and incidents that involve guns have nothing to do with their insistence that nothing can or ever should infringe on America's desperate need to own a gun. The NRA's current membership totals just under five million, down from a high of six million just four years ago. A majority of those members support common sense regulation like universal background checks. 

So, where is all this furor and fight to keep such laws from being passed coming from? Look no further than the United States Senate to follow the trail of money that comes straight out of the NRA and into the campaigns of these lawmakers. And then compare the ratio of gun deaths in their state compared to the number of millions of dollars that each senator received. Right near the tippy top of that pyramid you will find Florida's Marco Rubio, who raked in more than three million dollars in contributions alongside two thousand four hundred forty-nine gun deaths in the Sunshine State. It was this politician who complained that the NBA's Miami Heat had urged their fans to demand support for new gun legislation by saying that the team was “politicizing a horrific tragedy in America.”

Check me on this, Marco, but having "legally obtained" firearms pretty much suggests that there is a legal if not political side to all of this death. 

And in the end, the only number that matters is the number of victims. I'm done counting. 

Thursday, July 07, 2022

Did You Hear That?

 We like to talk about "shots heard 'round the world." Initially, it was the one that rang out in Lexington and Concord back in 1775. This, and those subsequent shots, were the ones that eventually added up to a surrender by the British in Yorktown, paving the way for Independence for its former colonies. It was from that shot that the right to bear arms became ensconced in our Constitution. 

It was years later when an assassin took the life of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This shot is generally considered to be the one that started World War I, or as it was known at the time "The War To End All Wars." I would like to point out that a semi-automatic handgun was used to carry out this killing. In 1914. One hundred forty years of advancements had already made killing more efficient. 

Meanwhile, sports writers adopted the phrase and began to sprinkle their reports with "shots hear 'round the world" to describe less lethal encounters involving baseballs and the like. These days, when shots are heard, they are quite often heard 'round the world, but only for moments at a time. As soon as shots ring out somewhere else, particularly in the United States, satellite trucks pack up and redeploy where the most recent carnage can be found. 

On Monday, they hastened themselves to Highland Park, Illinois. That is where a rooftop shooter killed six and wounded another twenty-four. The victims were lined up to watch the Independence Day Parade. While the celebration played out on the streets below, death rained down from above. Those weren't firecrackers, or the backfire of some old-time fire engine. That was the sound of the Second Amendment being abused once again. 

What better way to prove that we have earned our independence than to prove once again that as a nation we have no conscience and an alarmingly short memory? Once again, the world will pause during their own celebrations, struggles and conflicts to stare once again at the slow motion train wreck that is America and their guns. Schools, churches, grocery stores, and now holiday parades. Across the ocean in Denmark, one of their citizens shot up a shopping mall in Copenhagen leaving three people dead and several more injured. The last mass shooting in Denmark was seven years ago. 

This is when I thought about that old saw about how the United States is a "city on a hill." This makes it so much easier for anyone to see and hear the shots fired. 

Not in a good way. 

Wednesday, July 06, 2022


 It seems that I have been away for a very long time. It seems that while I have been away the country has changed in ways that seem to defy the usual Democratic exhortation to "remember to vote." I have been away paying attention to matters related my turning sixty years old. While the so-called Supreme Court has been rearranging the Constitution in ways to suit the angry mob that once upon a time was a disenfranchised assemblage of tiny minds. 

I was away. I was enjoying myself. I went to Disneyland with my son. I spent two days being distracted by the happiest place on earth. I stood in line and waited for experiences that kept me away from the headlines and the distractions that come with sitting in front of a television or a computer screen for hours each day. On this trip, I didn't even bother to take a laptop. Instead, I piled up a series of blog entries ahead of time that could be read out of time, not connected to any crisis du jour. 

I am back now. And I don't know how much heart I have to invest in the way things slid closer to the drain while I was out enjoying myself. When my son and I were as finished with Disney as we could be, we trekked over the hill to meet friends from out of the past. It was a reunion of sorts, one that required me to give some background to my son who had certainly encountered these people prior to our visit, but had never fully reckoned on their roles in my life. These were my friends from high school. My locker partner, and his girlfriend who later became my girlfriend while my locker partner moved on to dating the girl who would become my wife. And the girl who thought we were all so funny but turned out to be every bit as funny as the rest of us and was best friends with my wife, the mother of our son. Trying to untangle this web of high school intrigue was a minor chore that unraveled before us all as the week turned into a weekend and we shared meals and memories and generated new ones. 

I was able to remain distant from the hearings and the decisions and the protests because for the first time in a very long time, I was on vacation. There were reminders, and hints at what was going on in the world, but instead I chose to favor those who had come to celebrate with me. The people who, forty years and more down the path, were still my inner circle. It was a nostalgic joy, but not one in which we wallowed. The celebration, for me, sprang from the way that these people came back together to share their lives as they are now. All that noise from outside would come rushing back in soon enough, but for just a few days there was peace in the valley. So much so that I was able on one morning near the end after looking at my watch and noticing that the six o'clock hour had not fully begun. I rolled over and went back to sleep. 

I was away. My hands were not full of thoughts and concerns of others beyond my reach and control. Instead, I was able to spend quality time with those close to me. I was able to drown out the noise of the pending midterms and the disgraceful conduct of those anxious to turn back the clock on our rights. I was able to turn back the clock and then bring my past fully into the present. These are the folks who have made this long strange trip with me, and before I go back to the grind of trying to work out just how we will survive the current storm, I want to say what  lovely time I had while I had the volume turned down. I want to say how lucky I am to have friends like these, and I hope that when my son turns sixty that he has this same opportunity. 

And now back to our regularly scheduled. 

Tuesday, July 05, 2022


 Living in my parents' basement. The beginning of the end.

This was not the part where I was in high school and pretty much had the run of the lower floor. This was a gathering space for band geeks and friends of band geeks back then. We played Atari. We played ping pong. We played music. Loud. We played more Atari. When everyone went home, I went back to my room, covered ceiling to floor in posters, put on my headphones, and went to sleep. Listening to loud music. 

And somewhere in there I graduated. I prepared to launch into my collegiate experience with a ton of misgivings, most of which centered on a complete lack of preparation for separation. From my girlfriend. From my friends. From my family. Instead of making myself ready for what was to come, I spent days in the half-light downstairs, playing endless games of solitaire on the faux fur arm of the couch. Alone. 

In the meantime, my friends, family and girlfriend continued on with the expectation that I would be leaving the basement and going to college in Santa Fe. This did not happen because of the aforementioned lack of preparation. I was not ready to leave home. 

I still had all those games of solitaire to play. 

Meanwhile, life around me changed. I was encouraged to go out and get a job if I wasn't going to college. After a year of working at Arby's full-time and returning to the basement while everything around me changed, I felt that I could  perhaps make some sort of exit from the world I thought I knew. The next fall, I packed up my stuff and moved into a dorm in Colorado Springs. A little bit north of Santa Fe, but it was out of the basement. 

My parents were kind enough to keep my younger brother from following the trend in our family of letting the next kid move into the basement when the older one moved off to college. I maintained a spot in the basement for another year while we all figured out whether I could actually leave the dungeon behind permanently. The year following, I moved back to Boulder, but not back into the basement. The spell was broken. I moved into an apartment, but was allowed visitation privileges on the basement. 

Several years later, when I had graduated and was preparing to leave Boulder for a new life on the left side of the country, I moved back into that basement while I arranged my leap to California. My parents had carpeted the place. Bought new furniture. Moved my mother's sewing room into what used to be the cellar dweller's lair. I set up camp in a corner and waited for it to be time to leave.

I knew it this time. 

Monday, July 04, 2022


 America's birthday. I hesitate to make a fuss about "The United States" since I cannot remember a time when we were less so. United, that is. And yes, I am aware that there was a time in our history we refer to as "The Civil War." During that crisis, there was at least a sense that within two competing factions that there was a North and a South and they comprised the sides of the argument. War. 

That is not the case, currently. East, West, North, South. These points on a compass do not describe the deep divides that exist within our nation. Eighteen years ago, a junior senator from Illinois stood up in front of his party's convention and insisted that there was no Red America or Blue America. No Black America or White America. No Liberal America or Conservative America. Just one America. E pluribus unum. United we stand. Four years later that same young man accepted his party's nomination to run for the Presidency. 

Suddenly, it seemed like those words would ring true. 

And before we knew it, we found ourselves in 2016. The Republican party worked to block a potential Supreme Court nominee as the senator-turned-president's second term expired. They kept that for their guy, who went on to run roughshod over the progress made in the eight years before and put his own defining mark on the country. Without ever winning the popular vote. Four years of pushing back against all the ways that this country could be unified. 

All that pushing and pulling tore us apart. Now when we look across the aisle, or sometimes across the street, we don't recognize the people looking back. How can they believe the way they do? How can they really want the things they say they do? What does it mean to be an American at this point in our history? To be deeply troubled by the fishtailing direction of our country and those who we look to for leadership. To be not just concerned by the thought of what might happen next, but legitimately afraid. 

There is an old saw about how history is written by the victors. Sadly, that means the losers in these elections and selections lose their voice. These are Americans being shut out of participating in the decisions that shape our future. 

But the hope that burns most brightly is that of the revolutionary, the pioneer, the iconoclast. The story of our country is full of those who were told "no" but went ahead and did what they were going to do anyway. This is how the United States came to be in the first place. Not by accepting the status quo, but by pushing the agenda of the people. For the people. 

All of us. God Bless Us All. 

Sunday, July 03, 2022


 Ah, the double album: a concept that has become all but extinct in an era of streaming music. Once upon a time you had to think about releasing recorded music based on sides of a record. That was about twenty minutes per side. An LP (long-playing) record would therefore give you about forty minutes to get your songs out, and in a world of three minute pop songs, that was a pretty good deal. Six songs a side, twelve songs per vinyl disc. No need to test your audience's patience with a lot more than that, since hopefully you're going to go out on tour with those songs and shortly after that return to the studio where you can put together another album of songs that will be featured on the subsequent tour. And so on. 

But every so often, an artist or group would get it into their collective heads that forty minutes just wouldn't cut it. There was far too much music in them at that particular moment, and it became necessary to release the afore mentioned Double Album. The first of these that I recall was The Beatles, also known as The White Album. The interesting thing about this, for me, is that one of the most interesting features of any double album was the expanded canvas provided by the gatefold sleeve, providing so much more space for art. Only this one served to be the antithesis of that other quintessential collection of Beatles songs, Sergeant Pepper. That was one LP, but essentially delivered four sides of pictures, lyrics and puzzles to be decoded by fans for years to come. The White Album? Not so much. 

Then there was the question of "filler." There are few, if any, critics who would suggest that there is a single not of Sergeant Pepper that is not vital to the whole. It was conceived and sold as a piece. As endearing and entertaining as great chunks of the music on The White Album are, one might wonder if we might all have needed all eight minutes of "Revolution Number 9," for example. And since the album cover was painfully white, almost to the exclusion of Beatlemaniacs who wished for more insight into their musical deities, Why not just chop that bad boy down to the twelve songs that are vital to the story of the band? Send it out in a brown paper wrapper, not unlike the ones released by Captain Beefheart and later Led Zeppelin. Those last two weren't double albums, by the way, Led Zeppelin's entry into the studio double album was Physical Graffiti. That one had a cover that was perhaps more entertaining than the music inside.

So which double albums don't have any clunkers? Is it a form that is just far too susceptible to vanity and excess that artists' egos cannot be squeezed onto two sides of a record? Goodbye Yellow Brick Road? Tommy? How about Out of the Blue by the Electric Light Orchestra? Pink Floyd's The Wall? Or maybe it's best to let these become relics of a bygone era, when we had the patience to walk over to the turntable and flip that platter over,  moving onto side two, then three, then four. Who has time for that these days? And who really needs four sides of Fleetwood Mac's Tusk? 

Saturday, July 02, 2022

I Cant' Bear Arms

 What's round on the ends and deadly in the middle? 

Ohio. Or it could become more deadly if their state legislature has its way. Around the time that the state's schools had been on summer break for a month, Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 99 which made it easier to arm school employees. Until oh-so-very-recently, only those who had completed seven hundred hours of training could carry firearms with the approval of their school board. This new legislation walks that back to just twenty-four hours, leaving the discretion to local school boards. Allen County Sheriff Matthew Treglia had this to say about the possibility of encountering others with guns during an active shooter event, "This is obviously going to change the way we respond to active shooter situations if we know there's armed teachers in the school. And more than likely my guys aren't going to know who the teacher is."

Go ahead and pile this potential confusion on top of the fact that the current generation of school shooters have grown up in a system that has provided them a background in school procedures for emergency lockdowns. Would these teachers, with all twenty-four hours of training under their gun belts, be asked to leave their students when the bad guys are outside? And if they did, what would happen if that teacher accidentally shot a student or another faculty member on accident? Would they be shielded from prosecution? 

And what happens if a student gets ahold of the teacher's gun?

And how is it that we continue to believe that the solution to gun problems is simply to add more guns to the situation? As am educator, I still cannot believe that after being taught that the first step in getting students to learn is to make them feel safe. Strapping a gun to your hip is antithetical to that first step. Somewhere in the halls of the Ohio Statehouse, this thought probably didn't occur to the legislators who came up with this nonsense in the first place. The good news is that it leaves the decision up to the local school boards, most of whom are currently giving the new law a polite, "no thank you." 

And yet, here we are, just about a month away from heading back to classrooms where all we really want to do is teach and learn. And make it out alive to recess. 

Friday, July 01, 2022

Something To Look Forward To

 Well yes, I'm scared. I have not interviewed for a job in twenty-five years. That's not entirely accurate, since I was asked to re-audition for my spot at my current school when the staff was being reconstituted. Some of them left. I got to stay. I have never been completely clear if that was because I had done such an exceptional job answering questions, or if that distinction went to the folks who were spread about the district. I stayed where I was. Where I am still. Unless the district goes ahead with its plan to close ten schools at the end of the next school year. Then all those years of experience and dedication will be out the window as I am forced back out into the pool of those who have no fixed place of employment. 

There is a bright spot to all of this, I suppose. The "talent division," formerly Human Resources, has been placed at our nominal disposal with the vague assurance that even though our schools are closing the school district is still anxious to keep our knowledge and enthusiasm around. 

But here's the nitty gritty: I have never interviewed and not gotten the job for which I applied. I could look at this as an affirmation of my exceptional skill at interviewing. Or perhaps it is more evidence to my eternally obsequious manner. Or maybe I have always set my sights just a little lower than where I wanted to land. For the most part, my employment history was based primarily on knowing someone who already had a job at the place where I wanted to work. That worked at Arby's. And at Target. And at the video store. And when I got my job as an office furniture installer. Even when I moved out here to California, my wife helped me get a position at the book warehouse that distributed her mom's books. When it came time to get a spot in the intern credential program for the Oakland Unified School District, it was my wife who recommended me to the director for whom she was doing design work. It wasn't until I actually sat down with the principal who would eventually hire me that I was dealing with someone who had never met or heard of me before. 

And once I landed there, I stayed. No further interviews necessary. In the meantime, I have sat in on numerous interviews for others who desired employment at our little school, so it's not like I have been in an interview-free zone for the past quarter century. Which is probably a good thing, since it's starting to look like I may be back on the other side of the table again soon. I wonder where I left my tie.