Saturday, September 30, 2023

What I Heard

 Very shortly after Taylor Swift was seen with the Kansas City Chiefs' Travis Kelce, sales of his jersey went up four hundred percent. Keeping in mind that Mister Kelce was already a pretty hot ticket and a star in his own right, but the Swift effect lifted his numbers into the top five jerseys sold by the NFL. Travis is a Tight End. A Tight End who is, apparently, dating Taylor Swift. 

In another corner of the pop culture maelstrom, after Ms. Swift encouraged her fans via Instagram to register to vote, the link she included to received an immediate surge of thirty-five thousand new voter registrations. 

For the sake of full disclosure, I spent the past few years downplaying the music and the significance of Taylor Swift. Pop songstresses come and go. I don't listen to them because I am far too busy mining the nuggets of New Wave and Dad Rock that may still exist out there for me to consume. But somehow the algorithms of Spotify found a way to justify slipping her song Anti-Hero into my usual mix. 

A Taylor Swift song? In my Spotify playlist?

It's not like I was wearing a pledge pin on my ROTC uniform or anything, but when it was over, I paused. I went and checked the title. And the artist. What had happened to me was real, and I wasn't having an auditory hallucination. 

So I have decided that it will be perfectly fine for Ms. Swift to go on caring about things like voting and gun laws and the like. I would love to see a four hundred percent hike in the number of Blue Votes come this time next year. And if that seems like a bit of a cop-out on my part, handing over that kind of power to a thirty-three year old singer whose songs turn out to be quite listenable, then I'll take that humiliation. Who knows? In another few years we may be voting for her. 

Friday, September 29, 2023

Past Due

 I feel better writing this knowing that my fellow writers, the ones who get paid, are going to get paid. This makes me happy to think that the artists will be valued along with the art that they create. 

It also means that soon there will be comedy writeen about the past five months. 

I have felt somewhat alone in a desert of unspoken one-liners and punchlines. The absurdity of all the goings-on in our wacky world has not gone unnoticed here in this corner of Al Gore's Internet, but having satire pumped in through all the various outlets that have been quiet for all this time will be refreshing. 

Yes, there have been plenty of snarky bits thrown out on Twitter, which is now "X" and that decision has not had its proper vilification in the media because reruns and reality shows just can't bring the big hammers. Please understand that I will be interested to see what dramas erupt out of the WGA strike. I would expect to see plenty of man versus robot drama as scribes begin to hash out their issues with Artificial Intelligence through their art. 

But mostly I'm here for the laughs. Not just about how the billionaires who run machines like Netflix imagined that they could survive without any "content," fuel for their streaming device. I look forward to hearing John Oliver sum up all the events that leave us on the brink of yet another presidential election, as well as the celebration of the win of the pen and keyboard over the sword of the boardroom. 

I am encouraged to think that there will be a living wage offered to all those who seek out writing as a career, and that value for creative types will take hold in ways that were very much in danger of being snuffed out. Movies and TV can return to that part of our lives that they once were: background noise and distraction from our own struggles. 

That will be five hundred dollars, please. 

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Whose Side?

 New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez has been indicted on corruption charges has been called upon by fellow senators to resign. The laundry list of charges: conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and conspiracy to commit extortion. The indictment alleges they received bribes included “cash, gold bars, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury vehicle and other items of value.”

It is at this point that I feel that I should include Senator Bob's party affiliation is Democrat. Senator Bob's response to the suggestion that he vacate his office? "I'm not going anywhere."

Now you might think that Republicans might rise up at this point and join in a chorus of "throw the bum out." There are those who fall directly into their opposing camps, but interestingly there are some subtleties that bear some inspection. A Representative from New York pointed out that Senator Bob is "innocent until proven guilty" and “due process is important," adding that the senator “has the right to defend himself.” This member of Congress is a Republican. 

And he is also George Santos, who was arrested in May and pleaded not guilty to seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds and two counts of making materially false statements to the U.S. House of Representatives. Representative George has ignored suggestions that he should resign since then. 

Meanwhile, there are also plenty of fringe voices who insist that this is all a part of some chicanery on the part of the Democratic Party to give the appearance that all of these federal indictments are fair. The claim that there is a "two tiered system of justice in America" with one lane for Republicans and another for everyone else took a hit when Senator Bob was indicted. Which is exactly what "they" want us to see, according to those with their ear to the ground, ignoring common sense. "They" are willing to sacrifice their one guy from New Jersey to throw everyone else off the scent of Hunter Biden's laptop. 

Or something like that. 

Which makes me glad that I took some time out this past Sunday to watch Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Pluck Your Heartstrings

 I watch those commercials for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I understand that I am being manipulated. Those shivering puppies and big eyed kittens cowering are being presented as evidence of the cruelty of man against nature. All that footage of starving and tormented domesticated wildlife is there to elicit a very specific reaction: open your wallet. 

It seems like a pretty reasonable exchange. Dogs and cats and the occasional horse didn't ask to be brought into a world that would rend and torture them. They had the terrible misfortune of being bred into a space where they would be ignored and forgotten, or worse still become the object of their masters' poor attempts at being human. 

But did you know that your local SPCA is not funded by the ASPCA? The national group is not an umbrella organization for the folks in your neighborhood who are actively out in the streets rescuing animals from the lives into which they have been relegated. Since 2008, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has raised more than two billion dollars. Only seven percent of that found its way to local shelters and rescue operations through grants. Grants that had to be applied for by the local shelters. 

So, where is all that money going if not for doggie beds and kibble? Well, running a great big non-profit like the ASPCA is a very expensive undertaking. The CEO of the ASPCA makes eight hundred fifty thousand dollars a year. They have to pay folks to do jobs like senior director, professional consultant, senior finance analyst, and human resources manager. These jobs don't come cheap. So when they hit the end of that commercial and they're asking you to spend just sixty-three cents a day to help save an animal in trouble, remember that they're also sending you a T-shirt so you can feel good about keeping the lights on at their Manhattan office. 

Or you can be happy to know that part of each donation goes to the production company that gets paid one hundred fifty million dollars to make those ads that got you to open up your wallet in the first place. 

Be kind to animals. Not to non-profit CEOs. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2023


 A mother in Nebraska was sentenced to two years in prison for supplying her then seventeen year old daughter with medication. The medication in this case was abortion pills. The judge in this case accepted mom's guilty plea for tampering with human remains, false reporting and providing an abortion after at least twenty weeks of gestation. And came back with two years. 

The daughter was sentenced to ninety days in jail and two years of probation for burning and burying the fetus. If that seems odd, then we can agree that things in Nebraska are just that: odd. Since Roe v. Wade was struck down a year ago, many states have been anxious to see who can out-draconian the other when it comes to making sure women limit their right to choose to dishwashing liquid. When it comes to reproductive rights, the government has that covered. 

But how did this very private story become a matter for law enforcement and the courts to adjudicate? Police secured a search warrant to gain access to Facebook messages between the two, where prosecutors say the women discussed terminating the pregnancy and destroying the evidence. A subsequent search uncovered the remains. Now, instead of being a family with ugly secrets in their past, mom and her daughter have criminal records and all the publicity they might ever want for the rest of their lives. Lives destroyed but honor and decorum in Norfolk, Nebraska restored. 

Or at least this version of honor and decorum. It should be noted that when these events were set in motion, back in April 2022, abortion was still legal in Nebraska and the other forty-nine states. In June of that year, when Roe v. Wade was overturned, there was a rush to be the state that could put women and doctors in jail for providing what had been reproductive health care for half a century. 

Suddenly, the clocks wound backwards and pregnancy was no longer a choice. Politicians and prosecutors started sharpening their axes. And the part that gives me the most pause here is the "tip." Who was it that felt that they were going to help this family out by turning their personal business over to the authorities. Meanwhile, the most notable ommisson in this investigation remains unnamed and unpunished for his sins. The boy who helped start this mess is probably out there exercising his right to buy a gun online. Because he can. 

Monday, September 25, 2023


 I don't work blue. 

Not here. 

Not at school. 

Event though there are plenty of times that expletives flow freely through my brain, I stop them up. I keep them inside instead of giving those around me and those who bother to take in this daily account of my misgivings and inspirations. 

Again, this does not mean that I am incapable of thinking bad words. But since I am uttering them in a place where "the S word" more often than not means "shut up," I feel compelled to watch my language. The up side of this is first and foremost it allows me to call on the advice my mother gave me so very many years ago: "You have a great vocabulary. You don't need to shortchange what you have to say by using 'those words.'"

The same cannot be said of all of my young charges. The world in which they live provides them plenty of opportunity to see, hear and fully experience Bad Words. This stands in stark contrast with my own elementary school experience in which one of my second grade classmates screamed the mother of all bad words at Ms. Hoff before he ran out of the room, slamming the door behind him. The stunned silence in his wake gave us all pause and I am sure had a lot to do with the reason that our classmate did not return to the classroom for two days. 

Can I just say that a two-day suspension for cursing and slamming a door at the school where I work now would leave a lot of empty seats? Having to endure fits of anger that include a flurry of off-color epithets sometimes puts me on edge, leaving me with a brain full of off-color responses that have to quickly die on the vine in order to proceed with the matter at hand: de-escalation. Ultimately, these kids know that they are playing with fire, and they are likely to get burned. However, since the phone calls were make to some parents regarding their child's comportment fall on ears that are awash with that very same vocabulary. 

Where do you suppose they heard it in the first place? 

I know where I heard my initial lexicon of curse words. The kid down the street had two older brothers who kept him up to speed with every new innovation in expletives. I tried them out, of course, since that's what kids do. Which is why my mother gave me the advice about not limiting my word choice to the gutter. 

Which is why I don't tend to flinch as much anymore. I've heard it all, with the occasional new permutation. And I figure that just means I need to work harder at my job teaching them words that can convey their shock, disappointment, anger and amusement without getting written up. 

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Fish License

 There are those who insist that when cars are outlawed, only outlaws will have cars. This is the snarky response to calls for gun regulation, noting that people could use a car just as easily as a gun to kill someone else. It happens all the time. Of course, you could commit homicide with a frozen halibut, and then we would need special laws covering the use and abuse of fish found in the freezer section. You might need to get a special permit for that haddock, for example. 

Returning to what amounts to real life, I bring this up because early this past Tuesday morning, a driver sent visitors to Boulder's Central Park running when he hopped the curb and began racing through the park with what people there described as murderous intent. He made repeated sweeps through the park in his pickup, hitting a light pole and a street sign before he abandoned his vehicle on a nearby street. “Detectives believe this crime was an isolated incident and do not believe it’s connected to any political groups or movements,” police said. The suspect may have been driving under the influence of drugs, investigators said.

It was also an early morning in Las Vegas when a former police officer who was out riding his bike was hit and killed back in August. The driver in the case was arrested shortly after the incident, and just this past week, authorities took another suspect into custody. Not the driver, but the passenger who had been recording the incident. Additional video evidence from a school resource officer helped identify the passenger, who can be heard on the recovered footage encouraging the driver to swerve into the bike lane to run Andy Probst off the road. Andy's daughter later gave this statement to the media:  "We ask you please do not politicize his death or use it for culture wars. He was a man of honor, with thirty-five-plus years in law enforcement. A little league dad, an honorary Girl Scouts member, a real-life ‘Pee-Wee Herman,’ a jokester, a prankster." 

So what about it? How are people who go through the "rigorous" training and licensing procedures for operating a motor vehicle still end up behind the wheel with murderous intent? Suggesting that we outlaw cars, as a bike commuter myself, doesn't sound ridiculous at all to me. But I'm sure there are those who may disagree. But then you consider the move to regulate the licensing and operation of guns gets shouted down, and continues to be made easier for those who would like to have a machine that kills people. 

And I'm not talking frozen fish here. 

Saturday, September 23, 2023


 "All the news that fits." This is the nominal motto of Rolling Stone magazine. You remember magazines? Newsstands? Subscriptions that showed up in your snail mailbox? 

Okay, but maybe you remember Rolling Stone, the rock and roll newspaper started by hippies way back when there was going to be a revolution that wasn't going to be televised. Once upon a time it looked and felt like a newspaper, though it smelled faintly of patchouli.  Now it's a glossy ersatz fashion rag, stuffed to the gills with cologne samples and pictures of the current fabulous and the departing less than fabulous. Somewhere Doctor Hunter S. Thompson is looking up from his stupor and wondering how the mighty have fallen. 

Specifically, how is it that co-founder Jann Wenner could be bounced from his position on the board of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Foundation. Which he also helped found? The answer is simple enough. 

In an interview recently with the New York Times, Mister Wenner said of women in rock: “Just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level,” and remarked that Joni Mitchell “was not a philosopher of rock ’n’ roll.” His comment on artists of color? “Of Black artists — you know, Stevie Wonder, genius, right?” he said. “I suppose when you use a word as broad as ‘masters,’ the fault is using that word. Maybe Marvin Gaye, or Curtis Mayfield? I mean, they just didn’t articulate at that level.”

This came in response to questions about his book The Masters, all of whom were white males. The voice of a generation was speaking for his, it would seem. The generation of seventy-seven year old millionaires who had the opportunity to hang out with his pals Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Pete Townshend, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and Bono. And chat them up. 

Given a chance to rephrase by the New York Times, whose motto is "all the news that's fit to print," he doubled down. It was only after the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame came calling that he chose to apologize: “In my interview with The New York Times I made comments that diminished the contributions, genius and impact of Black and women artists and I apologize wholeheartedly for those remarks."

Currently less than eight percent of those artists inducted into the Hall of Fame are women. Less than nineteen percent of the nominees in 2019 were people of color. 

Is this news? Does it fit?

I believe it does. 

Friday, September 22, 2023

Dead Ball Foul

 A tough day out on the football field. 

Well, it's not really a field so much as a stretch of asphalt that isn't the soccer field where boys (almost exclusively) gather to throw the pigskin around. Historically, this is an activity that at our school has a half-life. In my time here at Horace Mann, we have shut down the football game more times than I count, and it's always for the same reason.

After weeks of making expectations clear and guidelines put in place, the surge of macho comes bubbling up to the surface and someone ends up getting hurt. Not from anything specifically game related, but because the inevitable trash talk heats to a certain degree and ten year old egos get pinched. Tempers flare, and the ball gets thrown at someone instead of to someone and then it's over. Instead of pigskin, fists are thrown and the donnybrook ensues. 

What bothers me the most about these altercations is that they almost always take place between the "alpha males" whose competitive juices exceed their tiny frames. The rest of the kids, the ones who are there for fun, stand by with a mixture of admiration and fear on their faces. Isn't this the way it's supposed to be? The fastest, toughest and loudest decide the game for everyone? After weeks of reminders and being carefully watched, the first time they are left to their own devices, football degenerates into pro wrestling. With language that would not pass the censors on basic cable TV. 

What do we do? Take the ball and shut down the game. We don't have to the staff to watch one small group of kids while the rest of the playground takes care of themselves. The testosterone generated by these ten kids overwhelms everything else on the yard. 

Worst of all? It stops being fun for everyone. 

And yet, they cling to it. Begging for the game to be reinstated with promises of renewed attention to the limits of elementary school behavior. Not the antics they see on television. Or out in the streets. Football is by its nature a ground acquisition game, a modified gladiator sport that is almost always played on grass. With pads. And a referee. 

So we're going to try to find some volunteers who are willing to don the striped shirt. Decorum will be reintroduced. And we'll start the clock again. 

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Falling Short

 Okay: Here's the part where I apologize to Drew Barrymore.

Ms. Barrymore backed off her original intent to resume production of her chat show during a writers and actors strike. To be sure, there was a lot more direct and harsh criticism than the words I tossed around that played a part in changing her mind, but I nonetheless applaud her decision to stick with the ones that brought her to this point: writers and actors. She said, "I have no words to express my deepest apologies to anyone I have hurt and, of course, to our incredible team who works on the show and has made it what it is today. We really tried to find our way forward. And I truly hope for a resolution for the entire industry very soon." 

Sorry, Drew. Thanks for listening.

Now, how about the rest of the folks who seems to be blissfully unaware of how their actions impact the rest of the planet. The easiest target here would be Lauren Boebert, a middle-aged grandma who calls for "family values" and strict adherence to the "word of God" who lied about all kinds of illicit shenanigans in and around her seat in a public theater. On a third try, she felt compelled to apologize for "falling short of her values." And she blamed her behavior on a "public and difficult divorce." Her date that night was a Democrat named Quinn Gallagher who is the proprietor of a bar that has hosted LGBTQ+ events and drag performances. 

There was a time when this kind of behavior could only end in a tearful press conference resulting in the one whose values had been compromised resigning. 

Not now. The former game show host and twice-impeached "president" appeared on network television this past weekend to give a softball interview to the new host of Meet The Press in which he confessed that it was his decision to believe the 2020 election was rigged. Add this to the stack of indictments, convictions and accusations that swirl around this beast like the cloud of filth that surround Pig Pen and suddenly Richard Nixon's impassioned speech given on the night he resigned appears as the peak of humility. 

Donald Trump taught his minions well. Groping in a theater seems like pretty small potatoes compared to the attempted overthrow of a democratic election, but with a track record like his, why would George Santos' behavior get any notice at all in this venue? 

No apologies for these folks.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Soaking In It

 You know that the government might have to shut down.

You were aware of this. Less than two weeks away from running out of time and money, a deadline that was known well in advance, the United States Congress has been busy with other things aside from keeping the doors open and the lights on. Back in 2019, a similar game of chicken ended up costing the country approximately three billion dollars. 

All because working together to resolve disputes was less important than pointing fingers and calling names. 

Four years later, as the deadline approaches, we find our elected officials arguing about conduct in theaters and playing catchup on the impeachment front. 

And all of this is coming essentially from one party. The party that holds the majority in the House of Representatives. The party that is currently holding their own House Speaker hostage to their lunatic demands. Rather than pressing on with their agenda to Make America Some Sort Of Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland (MASSOPAW), Matt Gaetz and his funHouse pals are doing everything they can to make life difficult for the titular leader of their party. The same doddering pinheads who have been holding up Department of Defense appropriations want to get their fingerprints all over the government funding bill that would keep the government up and running past September 30. 

Never mind that this kind of grandstanding hurts all sorts of people outside the halls of the Capitol, but since the members of Congress are considered "essential personnell" they will continue to get paid. For doing much the same nonsense that they have been doing for months leading up to the cliff off which we are about to plunge.


Sorry. Not very funny or salacious. Just bad behavior from a group that seems to be steeped in it. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Lessons We Learn

It's not often that after a day of professional development that I feel incensed. Captivated? Sometimes. Bored? Often. Motivated? Frequently. Not this past Friday. Incensed. 

I am used to riding the rollercoaster of whole language to phonics and back again. The same can be said for math facts versus problem solving. It's not important to pick a side. Teach it all and you'll be fine no matter what the statistics on the presenter's PowerPoint say. But we weren't gathered together to discuss teaching strategies. We were there to talk about survival. 

The Oakland Unified School District chose to spend what we can only assume was a fair chunk of change to sit all of its teachers and administrators down in front of Zoom presentation from Jeff Solomon about crisis management. 

Not coping mechanisms for getting through a tough day, or dealing with a room full of sugar crazed children. We were there to hear tips on how to survive an armed assault on our school. "Let's face it," our presenter Jeff Solomon said early in his presentation, “The next mass shooting is just around the corner."

For the next three hours, we were treated to potentially triggering videos of other mass shootings from the past several years and reminded how we could all do better. "Don't just sit there. Don't be a deer in the headlights." Jeff even included a slide of an actual deer in actual headlights to illustrate his point. He encouraged us all to keep our doors locked and our windows covered to obscure what we were led to understand was the inevitable appearance of a gun-toting loon. The numbers he quoted came from a number of different sources, but the bottom line was that we needed to be as prepared for this eventuality as we are for a fire or an earthquake.

Which was about the time that my frustration peaked. I sat still while he insisted that the shooter in the 2014 shooting in San Bernadino "started the incel movement," and how it was the command staff that was to blame for the slow response by officers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. I work at a school that has drills for fire, earthquake and lockdowns.

I also work at a school where seventy percent of our students are reading below grade level. That feels more like an emergency than the potential of becoming yet another statistic. Coming from the guy who makes a feature out of each new slice of gun violence this may seem somewhat contradictory.

But it isn't.

It's horrible that my job now involves a seminar about "target hardening" and acceptable losses. There were at least three points during Mister Solomon's show that he suggested that whatever we do, there might not be a way to save all the kids. So much for No Child Left Behind.

Then there were the examples he used. He referenced Officer Tackleberry from the Police Academy movies as a poor choice for a school security officer. Later, he told us all that he wanted us to be more aware of our surroundings, like Jason Bourne. The examples he gave us were Hollywood. The video he shared was straight from the news.

And somewhere, out there, a crazy person was just waiting for us to leave our door propped open. For the kid who didn't get breakfast that morning and then needed to go to the bathroom while the rest of the class got busy with the lesson for the day: Barricading the door.

Monday, September 18, 2023

What Am I Seeing?

 “I can confirm the stunning and salacious rumors: in her personal time, congresswoman Lauren Boebert is indeed a supporter of the performing arts (gasp!),” said Drew Sexton, Boebert’s campaign manager, in a text message, adding that Boebert “pleads guilty to singing along, laughing and enjoying herself.”

This same campaign manager insisted that the fog that was witnessed by other theatergoers was smoke produced by the special effects from the production. The mutual groping seen on the closed-circuit video from the between Representative Boebert and her date was all a part of supporting the performing arts. 

I could go on and on about "representative" Boebert, but this one is really more about folks like Drew Sexton. The people whose job it is to grab us collectively by the ears and avert our gaze from the painfully obvious. Those who cherry-pick snippets of audio and video to show us how we've been wrong from the start. Those folks at the Capitol on January 6 were "just tourists." Andrew Clyde, another "representative" said this about the footage from that day: “Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures, You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”

And no matter how many times you hear it, the former game show host's "perfect phone call" to the Georgia's Secretary of State, it still sounds like election interference. But the twice-impeached "president" continues to stress how perfect that call was. An hour of dubious claims and skewed reality is the loser of an election trying to get just 11,780 votes.


Now we turn our attention to the news outlets who would like to clip and snip events to present reality in a way that can only be described as artificial. One hundred years ago, a cat named Sergei Eisenstein made his name by cutting pieces of film together in such a way that meaning could be manipulated. Luis Bunuel made a "documentary" called Land Without Bread about ten years later that pointed out the relation between what is seen and what is heard behind the pictures. These guys were foreigners of course, but Faux News learned their lessons well. 

Propaganda. Repeat a lie often enough and people will believe it. - Joseph Goebbels.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Crossed The Line

 As discussed here at length a year ago, I am nothing but ambivalent when it comes to my membership in a union. The division between the responsibility I feel to my fellow teachers versus that I feel for the families that I serve is one I feel deeply every time some sort of work action comes up. Each day that we are out on the picket line is a day that we are asking students to park their education on the curb and wait patiently for us to settle our differences with management. 

While it is true that the majority of the discussions I have had over the years regarding teachers' salaries suggest that there is solid support of our efforts to continue our campaign for a living wage. A quick note here: I do not tend to have discussions about teacher compensation with Republicans. For that matter, I do not tend to have discussions about much of consequence with Republicans. 

All of this to say that I am pleased to have our last strike in the rearview mirror, and hope that I make it safely to the shores of retirement before my union gets it into their collective head to go out on the picket line again. 

All of this ambivalence does not keep me from raising an eyebrow when I hear that Drew Barrymore and Bill Maher are crossing their own picket lines to return to the generation of their eponymous chat shows. Bill Maher was already on record for being less than enthusiastic about supporting his fellow writers and performers. Bill has never shied away from being the only voice in a room shouting a particular opinion, and his decision to come back to his show without the writers who create his monologue and other scripted pieces in the "comedy cavalcade" that is "Real Time" allows him to do simply that: Spout his opinions to an empty room. It's pretty clear that this is all about Bill. 

Drew Barrymore, by contrast, started the strike ball rolling by dropping out as the host of MTV's Movie Awards back in May. This gesture of solidarity was a shot in the arm for the Writers Guild of America, who had yet to be joined by their brothers and sisters in the Screen Actors Guild. Now that both unions are on strike together, it seems dubious that Ms. Barrymore would choose to creep back across the line to renew production of her talk show. The rules regarding talks shows, game shows and soap operas were revised a year ago, and as a result do not come in direct conflict with the work stoppage. Except for the use of WGA writers who would normally be filling in those blank spots that show up frequently in those hour long discussions of what Drew finds interesting. As a member in long standing of a family of thespians and a card carrying member of SAG, she will be walking the same thin line described by Mister Maher. 

Somewhere in here is the suggestion that these two are doing this to be able to provide a return to work to those employees of their companies that are impacted by the work stoppage. They have also kicked the door wide open for other challenged productions to bring in those who have suffered due to the four months of being out on strike. Specifically those who need to work to survive. The reality is this: Those people are not Drew Barrymore or Bill Maher. What they need is that spotlight and the feeling that their words, written or not, need to be out there in the world. 

Meanwhile, the despots at CBS and HBO continue to roll around in their vaults filled with the money generated by the work of artists. And the artists remain on the picket line.  

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Out Of The Wilderness

 I was kicked out of the theater. 

It was a matinee, and my friend thought it would be a great idea to throw Milk Duds at Barbara Loomis and her friends who were seated a few rows in front of us. Let me just say from the start that if circumstances had been different, if I had Junior Mints instead of the aforementioned Milk Duds, things would have been much different. Who would waste Junior Mints on the back of Barbara Lommis' head?

After a few errant tosses, my friend connected. Though we were clever enough to hunch down in our seats, I'm sure our snickering gave our location away. Barbara jumped up, strode up the aisle, passing us in a huff. We figured for a moment that our duck and cover strategy had saved us. Then Barbara returned to our aisle. With the manager. We were not going to see the end of The Wilderness Family. The manager gave me, my friend and my little brother the hook. My poor little brother who really wanted to see what happened to Skip and his family. 

It did not occur to us then to argue or make a scene. We were caught, and that was that. We shared the rest of the Milk Duds as we sat on the curb and waited for my parents to come and pick us up. An hour later. 

I should also like to point out that I was thirteen at the time. I was also not a member of the United States House of Representatives.

Reports out of Denver this past Sunday indicate that Lauren Boebert, who is an adult and a sitting member of Congress, was escorted out of a performance of "Beetlejuice." Not the movie, the musical. Representative Lauren was asked to leave after being reminded during intermission that vaping, singing, recording and “causing a disturbance” during the performance could result in her ejection. According to Buell Theatre officials, Ms. Boebert and her companion did not heed the staff's warning, and were subsequently asked to leave the venue. 

The grandmother and State of the Union heckler did not go quietly unto that good night. She flipped off security and let fly with the standard “stuff like ‘do you know who I am,’ ‘I am on the board’ (and) ‘I will be contacting the mayor.’ ” Like so much of Ms. Boebert's behavior, these events were captured on security video

The good news? No Milk Duds were harmed this past weekend. No comment from Barbara Loomis as yet. 

Friday, September 15, 2023


 On a day that might be remembered historically for the moment of bipartisanship, Marge Greene chose not simply to further exacerbate the division between Democrats and Republicans, but to call for states to secede from the union.

That word: Union. "A club, society, or association formed by people with a common interest or purpose."

In the hours after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the assembled members of Congress met on the steps of the Capitol. Republicans, Democrats, Independents. All of them. They stood in front of the Capitol not unlike the Whos down in Whoville, and they sang. They sang God Bless America

The Grinch hadn't stopped our Union from standing. We stood, for that moment in time, hand in hand.


Twenty-two years, an endless war not won, a pandemic and four years of hardened political rhetoric later, the same loon who screamed "liar" during the State of the Union address was calling for states to leave that same Union because of the President's immigration policies. 

"If the Biden admin refuses to stop the invasion of cartel led human and drug trafficking into our country, states should consider seceding from the union," crowed the representative from Georgia. "From Texas to New York City to every town in America, we are drowning from Biden’s traitorous America last border policies."

Those policies do not currently call for zero tolerance and killing anyone who attempts to cross our borders without specific written permission from Marge herself. That reference to "drowning" in her tweet is a little telling, since the Republican governor of Texas was recently told he couldn't continue to try and drown immigrants trying to cross into the United States by swimming across the Rio Grande

Or maybe it's her hysterical reaction to her semi-major demigod and former game show host being indicted for election interference in her home state. 

Or perhaps it's just that her heart was two sizes to small

Did I hear someone say "brain?"

Thursday, September 14, 2023

They Put The Ignore In Ignoramus

 Why are we still discussing this?

Gun control?

Climate change?

Who won the 2020 election?

The questions that need to be answered is how we can preserve, if necessary, our Second Amendment rights without stacking up bodies like cord wood. Someone suggested that after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School failed to bring rational thinking to the problem of guns in America that we were too late. That was eleven years ago.

As another hurricane bears down on the east coast of the United States, we continue to gather funds to rebuild from the last one. There probably weren't any climate change deniers among the masses who were stranded in the mud after the "freak storm" that poured down in the middle of the Burning Man festivities this year, but maybe once they have finished hosing down their RVs they will take to the streets instead of the desert next year. 

The campaign for the White House has begun in earnest already for 2024, and the "debate" over the legitimacy of Joe Biden's election nearly three years ago rages on. To be fair, it isn't that much of a debate. The reality-deficient minds that are convinced that their former game-show host and twice-impeached ex-"president" obviously could not have failed in his mission to become our nation's Narcissist-In-Chief. Any evidence to the contrary like numbers will be ignored in exchange for a glassy-eyed stare that allows them to promulgate more ridiculous arguments about how everyone carrying guns is a good idea and climate change is a hoax. 

Yet, here we are, in 2023 with the clock ticking on the human race and we are still trying to convince the red baseball cap crew not that steering into an iceberg is a bad idea, but that the Titanic is in fact sinking. 

And the band played on. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

To Me

 Steve Martin once noted that "Comedy is not pretty." Steve would know. In this particular exercise, I would like to assure you that I will not be discussing cancel culture. The bit that I highlighted from Mister Martin includes the line, "I think a person should get to know someone and maybe even be in love with them before you use and degrade them." You might not think that's funny, but as he says, comedy is not pretty. 

What we laugh at, it turns out, is pretty subjective. My wife has no patience for the Three Stooges. I get that. Larry, Moe and Curly are not everyone's cup of tea. Or seltzer. I have heard that there are those who have similar feelings about the Marx Brothers. I might argue this point and find out that there are more people with this odd opinion, but this is the relative magic of show business. Sometimes the magic works. Sometimes it doesn't. 

Which brings us to another Martin. Martin Short. In an op-ed piece that appeared on the Slate web site, scribe Dan Kois wondered if Mister Short is"a comic genius or the most annoying actor on Earth?" Again, humor is subjective, and over the course of fifty-plus year career there have been some quiet moments. Not every appearance has been, as they say, a Maserati. But it's probably worth noting that half century in show business that might lead one to the conclusion that he had a certain aptitude for his craft. SCTV, Saturday Night Live, more than one hundred other televisoin and film appearances. 

Someone must think he's funny. 

Steve Martin thinks he's funny. Steve and Martin have been working together since 1985. in movies, on film, and an ongoing comedy tour that has been meandering across the country since 2015. Something's working there. Comic genius? That may be a little steep, but I don't think that the most annoying actor on Earth would continue to get work all these years later. There are a great many anecdotal suggestions that some people found Martin Short funny. 

Has it always been pretty? Not at all. Annoying? Often. But that's the funny part. 

Funny to me. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2023


 Just up I-75 from Mar A Lago where the indictments continue to pile up like classified documents in a bathroom, Governor Ron DeSantis is putting everything he has into his second place in the polls. Taking a page from Texas Governor Greg "The Fixer" Abbot in his attempts to control his southern border. Governor Greg has run afoul of those softies who don't believe that deploying a string of death-trap buoys in the Rio Grande river is merely "discouraging" migrants from heading north. That and the razor wire installed on the banks. 

If you're not a big geography fain, you may not have notices that Florida doesn't share a southern border with anyone but manatees and kelp. This doesn't keep Governor Ron from getting all worked up about smugglers bringing death into his swampy corner of the map. His latest television ad lets anyone bored enough to be watching that “We are going to use force and we’re going to leave them stone cold dead.” He's also cribbed a bit from old episodes of Miami Vice by referring to illegal drugs not as illegal drugs but as "product." 

Because that's the kind of tough guy he is. 

Meanwhile, at a recent gathering in Jacksonville, a man rose to ask a question of Candidate Ron. Instead of merely asking about Ron's poll numbers, the man told DeSantis that while he was a veteran and appreciated DeSantis' military service, he felt DeSantis' policies allowed "immature people" to access weapons that ultimately "caused the deaths of the people who were murdered a couple weeks ago." 

Grumpy Ron responded, "I’m not going to let you accuse me of committing criminal activity. I am not going to take that."

The man, who was black, replied, "You have allowed people to hunt people like me." 

Amid disapproving murmurs from the crowd, Governor Ron regained what was left of his composure"Oh, that is nonsense. That is such nonsense," as the man was ushered from the room. 

The nonsense, down in Florida, continues. 

Monday, September 11, 2023

Detective Work

 I have given up trying to find the kids who knock things down and tear things up. After the fact, there isn't a lot that can be done or said. Restorative Justice works very well when you don't have to plow through a mass of denial first. The initial reaction of, "What'd I do?" stands in front of progress like a brick wall.

"Well, the trail you left of torn bits of border from the bulletin board match the scraps you have in your hand."

Blank stare.

These kind of moments make me wish for a video playback system like the NFL has, with a monitor available to show the alleged perpetrator in action. After a look at the replay, we could move past the blank stare and on to the reparations. That tends to happen anyway, with a few quality moments with a stapler and a new roll of border because there is evidence tying the perp to the malfeasance. We are not always that lucky.

Over the past week, one of our little darlings has taken upon him or herself to challenge our hand sanitizing stations, knocking them down and leaving the wreckage for someone else to discover. Back in the height of COVID abatement, we kept these squirting sentinels full and running at most every entrance, and lines of students would dutifully pass their hands beneath the nozzle on their way to the next place. Many went out of their way to have more than their share of sanitization. They were part of the firmament. 

It could be that the response to the end of the pandemic was to lash out. More likely it was an interest in the batteries that could be found by crashing the sanitary sentinels to the ground. But I suspect the most likely reason for the mild delinquency involved in breaking an inanimate object is the wealth of frustrations felt deep in side many of the kids who make their way through our hallways each day. Over the course of any given day, perceived or actual slights build up to the point of lashing out in ways that provide immediate gratification. The scattered pieces of a hand sanitizing station provide this abrupt satisfaction. 

And a mess for Mister Caven to sort out. Instead of trying to find the culprit and have them put the machine back together, I find it's better now to keep an eye out to figure out who needs the kind of help that would keep them from boxing with a hand sanitizer station in the first place. 

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Rhymes With Tommy

 First of all, I believe that anyone who rises to a position of power like United States Senator might consider highlighting this portion of their resume. That being said, "Coach" Tommy Tuberville has declared that the United States Navy is "too woke." The evidence he gave for this conclusion was that “we’ve got people doing poems on aircraft carriers."

This wobbly rant is connected to the "Coach's" continued months-long hold on roughly three hundred military nominations over new Defense Department policies covering abortion. The casual observer might not grasp how the Defense Department policies covering abortion connect up with poems on an aircraft carrier, but "Coach" Tuberville certainly does. Recently, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro accused the senator of “aiding and abetting communists” through his hold on military promotions.

This is not how "Coach" sees it. “Secretary Del Toro of the Navy, he needs to get to building ships, he needs to get to recruiting and he needs to get wokeness out of our Navy.” This would include but is not limited to the practice of reciting poetry over a loudspeaker on an aircraft carrier. 

That and the Defense Department's policy guaranteeing access to non-covered reproductive care Like many employers who are reacting to the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Roe v. Wade, the U.S. military is hoping to support its employees who are trying to navigate the increasingly byzantine paths for medical care. 

"Coach" Tuberville isn't having any of that. And he doesn't care for poetry either. “It is absolutely insane the direction we are headed in our military -- and we’re headed downhill, not uphill.”

To be read on an aircraft carrier:

There once was a coach named Tommy

Whose mood was tense and not calmy

He said we're too woke

Our Navy's a joke

I'm just glad they are not Islami

Saturday, September 09, 2023

Proud Goeth Before The Fall

 "I am not a political zealot. Inflicting harm or changing the results of the election was not my goal. I ask you that you not take my forties from me." These were the words "Proud Boy" leader Enrique Tarrio used to plead for mercy at his sentencing for his role in the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the nation's capitol. 

Some quick math suggests that his plea fell on deaf ears, since he was sentenced to twenty-two years in prison which if my math holds up lets him out at the age of sixty-one. Maybe he should have begged for his fifties as well. At the time of his sentencing, Mister Tarrio was referring to the riots he helped incite as "a national embarrassment." What a gift hindsight turns out to be. Or the prospect of spending more than twenty years in a federal prison. 

You may remember Enrique from his previous "Proud" appearances, including his club's credo: "Western chauvinists" who "refuse to apologize for creating the modern world." Or perhaps you recall the time in September of 2020 that the former game show host and twice-impeached "president" called out"Proud Boys, stand back and stand by."

Enrique and his boys were listening. Over the course of the next few months, their appearances as agitators increased, and culminated in their 1776 Returns manifesto that laid out plans to storm key buildings in Washington, DC and suggested possible slogans to chant, such as “No Trump, No America." 

You probably know most of the rest of the story. In the years since the 2020 election, more than one thousand people have been rounded up for their participation in the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6. Currently, the record for the length of his sentence is Mister Tarrio. The national embarrassment he helped foment continues to put people in jail. Enrique is being locked up for his role in the seditious conspiracy that took place that day and the days leading up to it. All a part of the Big Lie. 

Meanwhile, the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party, the person mouth that set this all in motion, remains at the top of the polls. 

America's a funny town. 

Friday, September 08, 2023


 I don't spend a lot of time considering where I live. 

I live in Oakland, California. Latest calculations put me at just over half my life in this one place. 

I don't get around much. 

Which may be why I don't spend a lot of time considering where I live. What brought me here was a bunch of rent-to-own furniture that did not stack up well with the rooms of antiques that my wife had acquired. She wasn't my wife then, but the furniture was antique. She lived in Oakland with her antiques, and if I wanted to live with her I was probably going to have an easier time negotiating those arrangements by packing up the rest of my worldly possessions and moving them to where the antiques were.

When my record collection and I landed here on the left coast, it did not occur to me that this had the potential of being a forever thing. Thirty-one years have passed and I have become a taxpaying card-carrying resident of the land of Oaks. Birthplace of the Black Panthers. Home of Frank Oz, Ricky Henderson and Clint Eastwood. When I got there, there was a major league baseball team, a professional football franchise, and an NBA squad who hadn't won a championship for some time. 

Things change. Messrs. Eastwood, Henderson and Oz have moved on. As have the football and basketball teams. We may be experiencing the death throes of the Oakland A's even as we speak. No matter. I'll be here if they leave, with my tattered green and gold t-shirts to remember those times. 

Because I hang around until I am asked to move. It just feels right not to hop about the country when I live with all these antiques in this historical locale filled with a number of nature's wonders. The history and the nature are the things that don't often occur to me when I am going about my day-to-day business out there in the world. I am focused on the mundane, and not the exceptional. It takes someone from another chunk of land to show up and remind me that where I live has a lot to offer.

Almost makes me happy that I got talked into moving here all those years ago.  

Thursday, September 07, 2023

One By One

 It's the video store exercise.

You remember video stores, don't you? The places that had movies stored on chunks of plastic that you could borrow and return later, hopefully after watching the movie that you left with. 

If you went to the video store alone, your chances of success were quite high. Even if the first couple of tries at finding a title that you were interested in ended in one of two possible ways: Yes, we have that but it's checked out right now. Or, No I'm sorry we don't carry that, and I'm not sure it's available to rent. You could still come back with that third choice and be gratified with the experience of getting that third choice and leaving without too much additional drama. 

However, all you had to do was add one additional  person to this equation and suddenly you were subject to a degree of difficulty increased not just double but more like a power of ten. You might be saved by having had a discussion outside the store, or on the way, about what you hoped would be available to rent on this particular occasion. If you ended up striking out with that first trip to the counter, you would immediately be thrown into the winds of chaos as the two of you try to imagine what single movie would fill that void of entertainment in your collective life. Would you recommend it? Funny for him, but deep for her. I've seen it but I'm willing to see it again. That was a surrender move. Or you could pile it on the clerk across the counter: What's new that's good that's in that I haven't seen?

Go ahead and bring that third person along and hope that you brought snacks because you're not getting out of the video store anytime soon. You will be there for the long haul, unless by some providence you were clever enough to have had the discussion prior to getting into the car and you reserved your copy of Top Gun because you had all agreed that this was what you wanted to see. Truly. That poor, tired clerk would be pleased if you came to pick up your reservation on time, and not before the agreed upon six o'clock. Then all that good planning would be for naught as the desperate attempt to feed the needs of three disparate tastes would swirl once again out of control. 

Chances are you would all three have to surrender to seeing something that had been previously seen in the hopes of not falling asleep before the end credits. 

Anyone who came into the building with more than three people had a death wish. How could you possibly hope to find something "for the whole family to watch?" That stopped happening back in 1953 when Baby Ricky was born. Before cable television. Before cinema multiplexes. Before choices. So many choices. And there you were: stuck in a building full of other people trying to make choices that you already hoped they were not making. 

The next time you go to a video store, go alone. 

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

Category Five

 Here's the thing: My Disneyland is already built. There is a ready-made infrastructure in place for dealing with inclement weather and the occasional human whoops that take place there every day. I am about to run the risk of coming off hypocritical by suggesting that driving out to the middle of a desert and camping out on a dry lake bed is not an environmentally sensitive way to spend Labor Day weekend. 

The truth is, there aren't a lot of avenues that lead to being environmentally sensitive on Labor Day weekend. Your average holiday barbecue puts out eleven pounds of carbon dioxide per hour, so hanging around at home and grilling up some burgers in the back yard isn't the staycation you may have thought it was. Not for the planet which is already struggling under the weight of all the less than necessary waste we are generating as a species. 

Yes, I know that the Churro stands in the Magic Kingdom are significant contributors to greenhouse gasses. But as awful as the Disney Company and its mechanisms for force-feeding fun into our faces, at least they don't try to drag it hundreds of miles into the aforementioned dry lake bed to party around it and then, in a fit of hubris set it all on fire. 

All those urban assault vehicles that make the trek to Black Rock City year after year to set up camp in order to become one with the earth are not getting there on the fumes of love and understanding. Once they get there, they aren't running their psychedelic body painting shacks on positive vibes. Certainly there are those who tote their responsible solar generators out onto the playa, but even then they would be doing this as part of a caravan of drug-addled idjits with the disposable income to spray their garbage into the land and air around them. 

It seems to me that the "responsible" thing to do would be to stay out of the dry lake bed in the first place. Each year, Burning Man generates about 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide. That's more than about 22,000 gas-powered cars produce in a year. Though the culmination of the weekend is setting a series of wood structures on fire, the bulk of the carbon produced comes from the travel of these latter-day hippies into the middle of nowhere. 

This year, climate protesters blocked the road into the desert, but their barricades were rammed by trucks from the Pyramid Lake Ranger Station. The protestors were arrested at gunpoint and the long line of RVs continued on their way to their destination. 

A dry lake bed. That was struck by powerful storms on Saturday, making escape difficult if not impossible. Nature was having its say. When all was said and done, the tribe in the desert made the best of their situation and partied on into the weekend. 

Meanwhile, the lines to Space Mountain were short, and the churros were delicious. 

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Changes In Latitudes

 Wasted away again. 

Those were the words that came to my mind when I read the headline. Singer and mogul Jimmy Buffett dies at seventy-six. 

The man who taught me it was okay to grow older but not up will never be any older. While it is true that my Parrothead days are mostly behind me, if you were to cut me I would bleed a thousand margaritas. Before I started rabidly following New Jersey's favorite son, I worshipped at the altar of Buffett. Two t's is a Buffett. One t is a buffet. 

More summers than I can count were spent preparing for the annual trip to Red Rocks Amphitheatre to share a number of adult beverages with my closest ten thousand friends. We sang along. We knew all the words. We knew all the alternative verses. It was a beach party in the middle of a landlocked state. 

I have my older brother to thank for my introduction to Mister Buffett, no relation to Warren, and I spent many hazy nights and an equal number of blurred mornings cavorting and recovering. It was a lifestyle. Each new album was greeted with the anticipation of hearing it live. 

And singing along. 

I kept this avocation up when I moved to the left coast. Jimmy Buffett shows were not as easy a sell to those who had not been baptized at the altar of Parrot. After my son was born, it was even more difficult to rationalize the late night debauchery, even though at this point they were alcohol free. A friend of mine cajoled me into going out to a show with him in San Diego while my family was down there on vacation. In the parking lot, we came across a young man who was already chemically prepared for what he announced was his first Jimmy Buffet concert. I greeted him warmly, and asked if he had a song he was hoping to hear. "Margaritaville!" he roared. I assured him that he would not be disappointed. 

At which point he became very chummy. Putting an arm around my shoulder, he let me know that he thought it was great how Jimmy Buffett brought people together, "Your generation. My generation. It's great that we can get together like this." My vanity was battered but not bruised. Yes, I had spent a generation following the party, and though I still sing along, the party was moving on without me. 

But every summer, I still get a twinge to put on a Hawaiian shirt and see what's in the blender. Jimmy Buffett was the soundtrack to a great portion of my life, and always will be. He was a poet, a novelist, a singer of some renown, and the best party host one could imagine. He stomped on the Terra and he will be missed. Terribly. 

Aloha, Jim. 

Monday, September 04, 2023

Help! I'm Being Oppressed!

 Suggesting that we could wear masks while the current surges of COVID sweep through our nation is causing what has become a predictable uproar. The very idea that we might afford ourselves some measure of protection from a disease that has killed more than a million Americans makes many of those with pointy heads concealed by red baseball caps anxious. 

Well, more than just anxious. It makes them upset enough to talk in terms that suggest oppression. "We won't go back!" insist those who probably weren't wearing masks in the first place. Not while their friends and neighbors were sick and dying. Not while the pandemic raged. Not while there was science to back up the notion that wearing a mask was saving lives. 

Keeping in mind that there is no current mask mandate, "CDC recommends that vaccinated and unvaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings when the COVID risk to your community is high." 

A recommendation. Like, "Hey it might rain today. Better take an umbrella just in case." 


At my school, we have stopped insisting that kids wear masks. We make them available for staff and students who feel more comfortable wearing them. We are no longer littering our playground with masks that are cast off the instant the door to the outside is opened. We no longer have to send groups of kids to the office to mask up. It is a relief.

Except for those moments when you hear someone cough. Suddenly I am thrown back to a time not long ago when we were having swabs shoved up our noses every other day and my glasses were constantly fogged over because I wanted to be safe. I had a two year run without catching a cold. This was after spending a career prior with a bout with bronchitis almost assured somewhere along the school calendar. Germs can cause sickness. Masks help stop the spread of germs. 

We are not currently cleaning surfaces with our tongues. But this is only a recommendation. Like limiting yourself to two beers a week. Not a law. Not enforceable by any government agency. The government also suggests putting on a sweater. It's starting to get a little chilly in the evenings. 

Sunday, September 03, 2023

Different World

 The University of North Carolina went on lockdown last week as a gunman walked into a classroom building, shot his faculty adviser, and left. There was no way for anyone to know or comprehend the motive of the killer. Would he be going from class to class, building to building, murdering innocents until he ran out of ammo? Probably saving one last bullet for himself? 

The chaos that ensued on the Chapel Hill campus roiled on after the shooter left. Students at the university climbed out windows and hid in closets as they waited for word. Was the killing over? For these kids, the news reports they have been watching for their entire lives suddenly included them. These were no longer strangers. They were classmates. Friends. Relatives. 

Parents waited anxiously for word as authorities tried to unravel the circumstances. The following day, the school newspaper printed a special edition, the front page of which featured the texts between those inside the terror and those terrified for those inside. "Where are you? Are you safe? Are you alone?" These are the messages that spun out into space while attempts were made to restore order. 

Attempts. In the hearts and minds of all those closest to the maelstrom, getting things back to normal will be difficult. For those managing their first few days away at college, this may put a tinge of horror on the rest of their lives. 

Meanwhile, the relative bright side will be promoted by some. There was only one victim. No one else was harmed. Police were able to take the shooter into custody without incident. 

Except there was an incident. A faculty member was shot and killed in a classroom, surrounded by hundreds of students going about their first days of classes, not expecting to have an active shooter drill become real. The echoes of other murders rang in the air: "I would have never guessed that he would be the kind of person who could possibly be capable of this kind of thing. He was always very quiet." And "You never think this is going to happen to you, no matter how much we see it in our world." 

You never think that you live in the world where people you know will shoot each other. 

Except we do. 

Saturday, September 02, 2023

Climate Change

 Karl was the other round kid with glasses. I met him in the seventh grade, when being a round kid with glasses started being more of a problem. Fitting in during junior high turned out to be every bit as difficult as I had it would be. And every bit as hard as I imagined.

Karl rode the bus to school. I walked. We met in Cadet Band. He played clarinet. I played sousaphone. At this point, it had not occurred to us just how marked round kids with glasses were. That distinction was made clear once we made it to the gym. 

In elementary school I was no great fan of PE. The good news was that the stakes in those days were much lower, and being the clever kid the rest of the week was enough to keep my social standing. In junior high, PE was every day. And we were thrust into a world of changing clothes with our peers in a locker room. And that die was cast. 

Karl and I chose to get our gym locker baskets next to one another. Instinctively. We understood that finding a quiet corner might save us some measure of pain. The pain inflicted in this strange new world where dumb guys whose only skill seemed to be that of snapping towels. It was here that these morons were king. 

Karl and I were not. 

Once released from the torment of PE, Karl and I were free to roam about in the wild, conscious every day of the growing label on our backs. Not Cool. Being good at math or writing was not doing anything to save us. We were the round kids with glasses, and there was no escape. 

This was my seventh grade year. Karl and I comforted one another with knowing glances and the occasional lunch together. His company saved me from complete isolation. It wasn't until eighth grade that I listened to the voices around me that suggested that I try out for a sports team. I gave wrestling a try. This thrust me back into the jungle of the locker room, but my willingness to subject myself to one additional level of hell seemed to take the edge off the towel-snapping idiots. There was a measure of acceptance that I had only dreamed of in seventh grade here. I fit in. 

Karl joined me in this enterprise. But after a few weeks, he quit the wrestling team. He probably hadn't anticipated the level of masochism required to participate in junior high team sports. The gateway to being a "jock" was guarded closely, and not anyone would be let in.

Karl, being clever, bailed. 

By ninth grade, Karl had quit band too. This was a good move on his part, since there was a stigma attached to being in band. And being clever and round with glasses. Instead, he started hanging with the cowboy faction at our school, "the goat-ropers" as we referred to them. 

Karl and I lost touch after that. I noticed in his yearbook picture that he had switched to contact lenses. And wearing a Stetson. 

Nearly fifty years later, I wonder how we could have drifted apart so quickly. So drastically. By the time we were in high school we didn't speak anymore. We moved in different circles. Different orbits. 

But when I think of those days, I think of Karl. I think of the way we kept each other alive during seventh grade. I am sorry I didn't get a chance to thank him. 

Thank you, Karl. 

Friday, September 01, 2023

Travel Advisory

 Way back in May of this year, the NAACP issued a travel warning for African-Americans traveling to Florida.

This past weekend, three black people were gunned down in Jacksonville. That's in Florida. The motive for the shooting was hate. A twenty-one year old murdered three random people because they were black. Back in May, Florida's "governor" called the NAACP's warning "a stunt." This stunt was predicated on Florida's "governor" and his "aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools."

At that time, this was not a safety advisory. It was a matter of standing up against the systematic elimination of diversity and equality. The "governor" and his policies have worked to diminish and marginalize through such acts as rejecting students' access to AP African-American Studies and banning hundreds of books from school libraries. Those books that were considered by Florida's "governor" and his minions to be "harmful." Harmful in that they were written by people of color. LGBTQ+ people. People who were not in the carefully manicured white visage of Florida's "governor." 

That was back in May. 

And while Florida's "governor" continues to wish that he could be president of the United States after his party's presumptive nominee is locked up, that dream is crumbling around his ears. Turning his attention back to the mess that he left to go on the campaign trail, Florida's governor went to a vigil in Jacksonville, memorializing the victims of the hate crime that occurred in that city the day before. 

He was not welcomed. 

Did I mention that among his other Critical Of Race policies that he had also recently loosened Florida's gun laws. No permit or waiting period required. If you have murder on your mind and can get the money over the counter, you get a gun. 

And if you are prone to decorating those guns with swastikas, as the killer in Jacksonville was, you've got a friend in Florida's "governor."

Stay safe. Stay out of Florida.