Broken eggs and the end of my blog

 

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Today’s the first time I’ve put anything into this space since June 11, which represents a span of dormancy that never would have happened in the first six years I wrote this blog. At one point I was averaging ten posts a week, and sometimes five or six posts would erupt from my mind in the very same day. I had things I wanted to say, and was glad to finally have an outlet for them on the Internet.

In my experience, many blogs take a similar arc to mine. The person who starts them opens up with a burst of energy and creativity, only to have their interests dulled over time. Life changes, and priorities get reshuffled to the point that the blog isn’t so important anymore. I had managed to avoid that fate as of June 11, 2017. I even wondered how many more years I would keep my individual soap box going. It turns out–as I’m shutting this down the moment I finish writing this–that the number is smaller than I ever would have guessed.

Abraham Lincoln has been one of my most significant muses when it comes to stories for my blog. I’ve always admired how he came from nowhere, and left a mark on the world that those with superior advantages and opportunities never will. The greatness of this man is beyond our ability to fully grasp it, but I find it encouraging that some have continued to try.

I picked up a couple of books the other day at the annual Newberry Library book fair in Chicago. In one of those books, a collection of essays about Lincoln by historian James McPherson, I learned a small nugget about Lincoln that I didn’t know. When it came to waging the Civil War, McPherson said, Lincoln often used the analogy that broken eggs cannot be mended. As I read that line, it seemed like an appropriate metaphor to bring down the curtain on my little corner of the online world.

How many posts did I throw out into the world? Over 1,500, and I stopped counting a long time ago.

How many words were contained in those posts? My initial goal was to put a million words out into cyberspace, and I’ll just imagine that between the actual posts themselves, the keywords I attached to the posts, the responses I typed out to those who left a comment about something I had written, and the drafts that were started but never saw the light of day, I made the million word plateau somewhere along the way.

How much sleep did I lose out on? Quite a lot, I would suppose. It’s probably better if I never find out for certain.

In typing out this valedictory post on a perfect summer afternoon here in my beloved Chicago, my desire to write a blog now feels like broken eggs. Rather than letting BlueBattingHelmet fade away into nothingness, I’m taking one final stab at putting some words out there, for anyone who may be interested in reading them in the future.

I had a lot of fun doing this, but now it’s time to go on to something else. As Prince sang in a song that I heard in a pet store earlier today, “Life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last.” The teenager that I was when I first heard this song would agree, and so do I.

And with that,

 

6 years, and how many more?

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Six years ago, I had a story to tell.

Actually, I had already told the story, just as I had a hundred times before, by sitting down in front of a computer and typing away. Most of the stories I had told before never saw the light of day. I had either abandoned them halfway through, or maybe saved them onto a disk, but that was about it.

But this story was different. It hit on some of my favorite writing muses: childhood, the Chicago Cubs, and finding something new. When I finished typing it up, I decided that this story had to live on. So I started a blog and named it after the object of my story. And six years later, I’m still writing it. I daresay that many blogs have come and gone since then, but mine has somehow endured.

None of the posts that I’ve created here (there’s at least 1,500 of them, but I stopped keeping track a long time ago) would ever win any writing awards. In fact, most of them don’t mean anything to anyone other than me. But maybe that’s the beauty of creating a series of words and ideas and images over the past six years of my life. For all of recorded human history, it was not possible–until the early years of this century–to create an enduring testament of one’s own life. Somebody could have written a diary, of course, but the ability to share that diary with anyone–much less the entire world–didn’t exist. What would Hemingway’s blog have looked like? Or Thoreau’s? We’ll never know. But those of us with internet access and the inclination to share a few thoughts with anyone who cares to read them have an opportunity that is really pretty amazing.

My Facebook profile lists this blog as my place of employment. And that’s ironic, because I’ve never made a dime off of any of this. Monetizing a blog is possible, and some have been very successful with it. But as for me, sharing a thought or two with people I’ll never meet is reason enough to keep on doing this.

I’ve never stayed in the same place professionally for six years, and I’m not sure that I ever will, either. But I could keep doing this for as long as I’m able to sit in front of a computer and type. However long that will be is still an open question, but I’m looking forward to telling more stories in the days and months (and hopefully even years) ahead.

One song, Comey

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As the six year anniversary of my blog is coming up in a few days, it’s pretty clear that my interest in doing this has waned considerably. I once thought the Trump era would lead to all sorts of insights and observations on my part about how terrible everything has become under his stewardship, but it hasn’t turned out that way. Every day new “bombshells” are revealed, each one more terrible than the one before, but nothing seems to happen as a result. And while this didn’t start off as a political blog, the nature of the times has made it difficult to muster up much interest in writing about anything else.

The plain truth is that republicans in congress are aiding and abetting Trump, and they aren’t going to change their course, either.

Jim Comey–who all but ushered Trump into office last October–will get his comeuppance against Trump tomorrow, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I hope that Trump’s malfeasance in trying to kill the investigation into Mike Flynn is as tawdry and shameful as anything that’s ever been said aloud in the halls of congress. The rest of the world is already aghast at this villain who seems bent on upending the United States and all of its democratic institutions.  They scoff at him, and at all of us Americans for electing such a buffoon in the first place. And by allowing him to remain in office for over four months so far, we deserve their contempt.

So let Jim Comey swing away at Trump tomorrow. If there were any justice in the world, his words in June would unmake Trump as president, as effectively as his words made him president last year. But with the Obamacare repeal and tax cuts for people who don’t need them and that grotesque farce of a budget on the horizon, the republicans are like Slim Pickens at the end of A Clockwork Orange: They’re going down toward certain destruction, but they’ll be waving their hats and hollering as they go. Here’s hoping that Jim Comey can at least throw a wet blanket over their ride into oblivion.

(NOTE: The title of this post is a tribute to Jonathan Larson and RENT, which I saw for the second time recently, nearly two decades after the first time. The songs still sounded as good as I remember them. Viva la vie boheme!)

An indefensible act

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By removing the United States from the Paris Agreement–which every other nation in the world save for Syria and Nicaragua has signed onto–Donald Trump has declared war on the planet that all of us inhabit. He clearly doesn’t care about my children, shown above on the rim of the Grand Canyon and in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. They don’t matter to him, nor do millions of other children around the world, who rightly consider this world of ours as their birthright.

This planet is my home, and I won’t keep silent as Trump attempts to ruin it by his actions. Laughing at Trump–which once seemed like it would have been enough–isn’t the answer. Scoffing at Trump hasn’t worked either, not as long as he has a sycophantic army of supporters who seem oblivious to the harm he is doing. But we all must speak out, to raise our voices in protest of this diabolical act.

Red Alert for Democracy in the USA

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The Trump White House has gone lower and lower since it began on January 20, and today it struck an alarming new low. This president fired the man who was investigating his ties to the Russians. Make no mistake: This was the act of a desperate man.

What’s going to happen next? I don’t know. I want congress to stand up and become the bulwark against tyranny that it was designed to be. But the republicans in the house and senate (no capitalization is used because that indicates respect, and none is appropriate here) have put their own political party above the nation that they once swore to protect.

Trump is an unqualified stain on this nation, and every day that goes by drives us deeper and deeper into a quagmire that we must extricate ourselves from.

USA? How about SOS instead?

Time to give a history lesson to Donald Trump

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The man seems to be unaware of what the reason for the Civil War was, so here goes:

In 1860, there was a presidential election held. In that election, there were four main candidates: Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Douglas, John Bell, and John C. Breckinridge. Here’s a primer on Breckinridge, in case anyone hasn’t heard the name before.

Lincoln got a majority of the electoral votes, so he was declared the winner. I’m certain Trump knows all about that. Lincoln won 59.4 percent of the electoral vote, a landslide in comparison to Trump’s 56.5% in 2016. But 50% plus one is really all a candidate needs, Trump’s braggadocio aside.

Presidential inaugurations didn’t happen until early March in those days, so some Southern states–slaveholders all–decided they were not going to wait around until Lincoln took the oath of office. By the time Lincoln arrived in Washington,  seven states had already gone ahead and left the Union. They believed they could do it, and so they did. Election results be damned.

When Lincoln came into office and said that he was not going to interfere with slavery where it already existed, the die had already been cast for those seven states. How Andrew Jackson could have prevented this is unclear, because he had already been dead for over ten years, but Trump isn’t one to give any details, is he?

Lincoln never considered secession to be a legitimate course of action, because there is no mechanism for it spelled out in the Constitution. He always considered South Carolina and the others as part of the Union, even as they had soldiers in arms trying to destroy it.

Virginia and three other states left the Union after the Confederacy opened fire on federal troops at Fort Sumter, in South Carolina. Lincoln said there would be no armed conflict without the South being the aggressors, and he was right about that.

Flash forward 156 years, to the election of 2016. Trump got a majority of the electoral college votes, and he took office as president as the result. I really don’t like typing out those words, but that’s what happened. The issue of whether California or New York or my home state of Illinois would be allowed to disregard the election results and just walk away was definitively and forever settled by the 600,000 soldiers who died on the battlefields of the Civil War. States like mine would just have to live with the results.

The fact that this country is still united today, in the face of such overwhelming opposition to the policies of Donald Trump, is a testament to the finality of the Civil War’s outcome. But how many of those seven states who didn’t even give Lincoln a chance to take office first did Trump win in 2016? All seven. And how many of the other four states that seceded did Trump win? All except Virginia. Maybe it’s no accident that the man who won 92% of the old Confedercy’s electoral votes is ignorant about why the Civil War broke out.

The electoral college–the sole reason why Trump holds office today–was Lincoln’s key to the White House in 1860. The rash and impulsive decision by eleven Southern states to withdraw from the Union–absent any Constitutional authority for doing so–was the reason for the war’s outbreak, not any failing by Lincoln or anyone on the Northern side of the conflict. The backhanded suggestion that Lincoln should have tried to negotiate away an election that he won fair and square is outrageous, and needs to be labeled as such.

Elections have consequences, as Trump supporters are quick to remind us. If the Southern states had acted upon this conviction back in 1860, perhaps the war could have been avoided. But the Southern states are the ones that started the war, and any responsibility for the conflict and the suffering it caused lies squarely on their shoulders. Or, to put it another way, with the states that form his 21st century base.

Here endeth the lesson.

 

A blast from the past

10515319_10202980211960774_5874144911201774641_oAs what may be my family’s last spring break rolls on, here’s my favorite image from the first one, back in 2005. My older daughter–who just turned 18 a few days ago–was in kindergarten at the time, and we spent a week in Arizona.

Near the end of the week, we went to a chuck wagon supper at a place I’ve since forgotten about. One of the attractions ions we could do was pose for an old time where photo in period dress. My kindergartener saw the blue dress and decided she had to wear it. So we all got dressed up, and the photographer captured a literal snapshot in time for us.

To remember that moment, and marvel at how quickly time passes, that snapshot is presented here. Many thanks to my two girls– who will always be “little” in my mind, no matter how old they get– for allowing me to take them to places I otherwise would not have gone. Thanks also to my wife, who picked out a number of interesting places to go over the years.

Yesterday we were at the Japanese garden in Portland, Oregon when a family with three cute little girls caught my attention. I understood, in a way that I couldn’t have back in Arizona, that we are lucky to be where we are at any given moment, and that having children is like a concert or a play that’s over before you want it to be. All we can do is enjoy it while it unfolds, as much as we possibly can. And in the end, we’ll wish we had done more. But the memories of what we did do will just have to be enough.

 

Always in my heart

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On the occasion of my daughter’s 18th birthday, I have boxes of pictures and just as many stories to share about her. My life hasn’t been what it was before she was born on April 4, 1999, and I don’t mind that one little bit.

Being a parent once scared me to death. Nothing quite compares to holding a little one in your hands, figuratively and literally. I put it off for all of my twenties, and by the time I hit 30 it couldn’t be deferred much longer.

I’m sharing one picture here, and one story as well. The picture was taken when she was in kindergarten, and it shows the happy but shy girl that she was in those days. Looking at it reminds me of how kindergarten once seemed far away, and yet one day it arrived. And now she’ll be going away to college in a few months. I’ve always made a point of enjoying it while it lasted, because it sure didn’t last for very long.

My favorite story about the lovely girl who forever changed my life took place a few days before she was born. My wife and I had tickets to see a musical at the Oriental Theater in Chicago. During one rousing musical number–I think it was in the second act–my wife grabbed by hand and pressed it against her side. I was amazed to feel my unborn daughter kicking along with the music. She’s always been a theater kid, and studying musical theater in high school is as natural for her as a fish swimming in water. But I truly believe it started for her on that night.

She’s grown so much in the 18 years she’s been with us, and it’s been such a joy to watch it all happen. The law says she’s an adult now, and she can do many more things today than she could yesterday. I’ve lost whatever legal rights and responsibilities I ever had for her, but my job as a parent isn’t done, nor is it ever likely to be. So we’ll keep on travelling down that path toward whatever she’s going  to be in life.

This is an important day in her life and in mine, and I’m writing this to recognize how far the two of us have come together. It’s been quite a ride so far, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

Here’s to a beautiful flag

 

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The Pride parade in Chicago was–and still is–an event I look forward to each year, because people can come together to celebrate who they are, whatever that is. The rainbow flag captures that idea, so much so that whenever a person sees the flag, they instantly know what it stands for. I can’t imagine how good that must have made Gilbert Baker feel. Long may it wave.

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How sad it is to watch people who I’ve never met–but who still enriched my life in some way–cross over into whatever comes next. In just the past week, Chuck Berry died (and I’ve had Johnny B. Goode stuck in my head ever since), followed by Jerry Krause of the Chicago Bulls, Chuck Barris of the Gong Show, Dallas Green of the Cubs (and several other baseball teams) and most recently, Sib Hashian from the rock band Boston.

I can still picture seeing Sib’s image on the back of my vinyl copy of Boston’s debut album. He had the giant afro and was standing in the middle of the group, which made him look totally badass. The album was released in 1976, which was just before I discovered rock music for the first time. I regret that I wasn’t cool enough for this at age 8, but I got there once I reached high school in the mid 1980s.

I listened to the first two Boston albums over and over again back in 1985 and 1986, as I was biding my time and waiting for life to begin. I couldn’t have the kind of life I wanted to have–and I wasn’t very clear on what that should be, either–so long as I was living under my parent’s roof. So I waited, and listened to Boston every chance I got.

Sib Hashian was not the musical mastermind behind the group’s music, nor was he the voice that people hear on songs like “More than a Feeling” or “Hitch a Ride.” But his drumming was always there with me, and it will be for as long as the music means something to me, and to everyone else who feels the same way. That’s quite a legacy to leave behind, isn’t it?

It’s gotta be rock and roll music, if you wanna dance with me

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I’ve been writing this blog for almost six years now, and have put more than 1,500 posts up for the world to consider. I do it because I know that we’re all mortal, and when we leave this world there will be few traces of us left behind. Whether anyone alive today reads these things or not, I want future generations to have some insight into the life that I lived, in the early 21st century in the United States of America.

My main writing muses became pretty clear early on in the development of this blog. Baseball and the Chicago Cubs were one, and just behind that came a music genre known as rock and roll. I’m not a musician, so my interest in this music comes strictly from a consumer standpoint. I admire musicians a great deal, because they have a talent that I wish I had.

Rock and roll first entered my life back in late 1976 or early 1977, in my parents’ house in Jerome, Illinois. We had recently moved into the house, and their old turntable–along with a few LP albums–took up residence in the basement. When my siblings and I and our neighbor from across the street figured out how the thing worked, we immediately gravitated toward Side 1 of Beatles ’65. It was filled with two-minute songs that opened my world up like nothing ever had before. They were catchy, which was the essential part of the music, but they also told stories that went beyond “The Farmer in the Dell” and all the kiddie songs I had known before then. It was the first step in the transition away from childhood and into the world of adolescence. It truly did change my worldview in a way that nothing else had before.

My favorite song on Side 1 of Beatles ’65 was “Rock and Roll Music.” This song not only introduced me to the music I loved, but it gave it a name, too. “Just let me hear some of that Rock and Roll music…” was sung by John Lennon, but it wasn’t until many years later that I discovered he didn’t write those lyrics. Chuck Berry first wrote and recorded the song in 1957, and it ushered in a musical wave that I caught on to some 20 years later.

The first record that I ever bought for myself was the Grease soundtrack in 1978, and even though it had no Chuck Berry songs on it, it was filled with the music that he had inspired. Disco was also on the airwaves back in 1978, and I heard plenty of it on the airwaves of the AM hit music station where I lived. But it was a fad, which fortunately passed away in a few years’ time. While other genres have met with a similar fate, rock and roll has endured for me. As AC/DC once proclaimed, “Rock and Roll will never die.” And that’s exactly what Chuck Berry’s legacy will be.

If you ever wanted any perspective on how important Chuck Berry was in rock and roll’s history, consider that he opened up the Rock Hall in Cleveland back in 1995. Without Chuck Berry, the music–and the building that honors it–would not exist.

From the time I began purchasing music for myself–when I started to view the world through something other than a child’s eyes–I’ve wanted to hear some of that rock and roll music. My gratitude to Chuck Berry for creating it–and for giving it its name–is beyond my ability to describe it here. But the effort is one that must be made, so let’s just turn up his music and appreciate it for as long as we can.

Go Cats!

Northwestern didn’t belong in the Big Ten when I was on campus in the late 1980s, at least not in the two sports that most people pay attention to. That didn’t change how I felt about the school, but it was hard to routinely be embarrassed by all of the other schools in the Big Ten (back when there were only ten schools in the conference).

Since that time, the conference has expanded to 14 teams, while Coach Fitz and Coach Collins have taken their respective programs to places I never thought were possible.

This GIF shows the two coaches sharing a moment and savoring their success. I can’t wait for today’s game against Wisconsin, and all of the Madness that will follow.

Hit ’em high! Hit ’em low! Go Northwestern Go!

Appreciating Hooper Humperdink

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On Dr. Seuss’ birthday, which is also Read Across America Day, I wanted to take a moment to honor one of my favorite books. And as the title of this post suggests, it isn’t one of his more well-known titles like The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham. Those are great books, but Hooper Humperdink is far more obscure than that. But I’m all right with that, and I think he would be, too.

Hooper Humperdink…?  Not him! was written under the pen name of Theo. Lesieg (the last name was Geisel–Seuss’ real name–spelled backwards) and published in 1976. It was illustrated by Charles E. Martin, so the Seuss name isn’t anywhere to be seen in this work. But the message–and Seuss’ work always had a message underneath the funny names and whimsical drawings–is one that will always resonate with me.

The narrator of the story is going to have a party, and he or she wants lots of people to come. Unfortunately, Hooper Humperdink was most emphatically not among them. As the guest list begins with A and works its way through the alphabet, the party keeps getting bigger and more outlandish than it was before. And by the time Z is reached, the narrator has a change of heart. It’s as if the narrator gives up and says “OK, OK, I’ll invite him after all.”

Hooper is on the outside looking in through the whole book. He watches as the kids who are wanted at the party show up, but we never get to hear from him directly. Our only clue as to what he is thinking is his facial expressions and body language, but they don’t suggest that Hooper feels bad about being left out. The natural reaction to seeing a big party that you’re not invited to is a mix of shame, humiliation, and resentment, but Hooper never seems to be in any of those places.

Hooper is finally invited, not to a massive blowout complete with a marching band and multiple sets of quintuplets and a cast of thousands, but to a small little gathering with a picnic table in the backyard. The point is that he’s wanted there, and that makes it all right with him (and his little dog, too). Happiness is found in simplicity and sincerity, rather than the narrator’s opulence and excess.

There was a second version of this story, which was illustrated by Scott Nash and released (with the Dr. Seuss name on the cover) at a later date. But the kids I knew in the late 1970s are more represented in the Charles E. Martin version of the book, and I’m glad that I came across that version of it first. I see a lot of myself in Hooper Humperdink, and maybe that’s why I appreciate it the way that I do.

As a lover of books from as far back as I can remember, I owe Dr. Seuss and Theo. Leseig an awful lot. That’s why I’m happy to take a few minutes to try and explain why. May his words and thoughts and images be appreciated forever.

Failing Hamilton, Failing us all

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These crazy and terrifying political times have caused me to dust off my old copy–or more accurately, my father’s old copy–of The Federalist Papers. The paperback edition I have was published several years before I was born, but the issues described within its covers are timeless.

Tonight I pondered, as I have on many occasions over the past month, the subject of impeachment. A president has never before been successfully impeached and removed from office. It’s a rare and, quite honestly, a desperation tactic. It’s the “In case of fire, break glass” tool that should never need to be used. But these are not normal times, and we should be grateful that Hamilton and the other founders gave us this tool.

The tail end of Federalist #77, written by Alexander Hamilton, puts a very fine point on the reason for having a check on the authority of the president:

“The election of the President once in four years by persons immediately chosen by the people for that purpose, and his being at all times liable to impeachment, trial, dismission from office, incapacity to serve in any other, and to the forfeiture of life and estate by subsequent prosecution in the common course of law. The precautions, great as they are, are not the only ones which the plan of the convention has provided in favor of the public security. In the only instances in which the abuse of the executive authority was materially to be feared, the Chief Magistrate of the United States, would, by that plan, be subjected to the control of a branch of the legislative body. What more can an enlightened and reasonable people desire?”

Speaking strictly for myself–a fairly enlightened and reasonable citizen of the United States–here’s one thing that I want in America, 2017: a Congress that isn’t afraid to exercise their right to “control” the president and remove him from office. It’s not a question of whether he’s disqualified himself from office: The refusal to release tax returns, the backchannel discussions with Putin while President Obama was still in office, and the attacks on the legitimacy of the judiciary are all enough, taken by themselves, to establish that the current president has crossed a line and must leave office immediately.

The process for impeaching the president relies on the House of Representatives approving articles of impeachment against a sitting president, and then a vote in the Senate, after a public trial, to convict and remove the president from office. But Paul Ryan and his republicans in the house, and Mitch McConnell and his republicans in the senate, will not lift a finger to remove Trump. At least a few of them probably believe that they are sufficiently “safe” from any meaningful opposition in the 2018 elections. So instead they leave Trump alone and let him do whatever damage he wants to do. It’s a complete and utter abdication of the responsibilities entrusted to them by the Constitution.

Here’s what I’m asking for, Mr. Hamilton: A congress with integrity and courage. The congress we have now will not act, since they are clearly unwilling to give Trump his walking papers. Hamilton couldn’t see this situation coming back in 1787, so now it’s time to hunker down and hope we can survive until the 2018 midterm elections. Once those elections get here, we better damn well make sure that all politicians with an R next to their names get voted out of office. They have failed Hamilton and, by extension, they have failed us all.

Presidents Day wasn’t the same this year

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Presidents Day was earlier this week, and I know the idea is to celebrate Lincoln, Washington, and all the other presidents, but it didn’t feel right this year. Having a president to repulses me in so many ways will lead to that.

So in the few moments that I have for writing, I’m posting some images of President Obama, including a few I photographed back in 2009 but haven’t used here before. Here’s hoping this new one isn’t around long enough to do any serious damage, but it isn’t looking promising so far.

 

It’s all hands on deck

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On the first day of this new year, I met up with a cousin I hadn’t seen in a very long time. He was in Chicago with his family, and we met up to see a few sights and–in true Chicago fashion–have some deep dish pizza. It was a great day, and I was happy to begin 2017 by renewing an old acquaintance.

As we were talking over dinner, I mentioned that I write a blog. My cousin asked if it was political, and I replied “It can be.” I didn’t start writing this blog for that reason, and baseball and family and rock and roll–the things that really matter to me–are my principal writing muses. But here in 2017, politics  appears to have crowded out everything else. These times don’t allow for much else besides a discussion of our government system and how to protect it against a despot. For progressives like me, this is our moment of truth.

The fact remains, no matter what is said to the contrary, that Hillary Clinton received millions more votes than Donald Trump did. He entered the presidency with that hanging over everything else, and the tens of millions of people who saw Donald Trump’s name on the ballot and voted for somebody else have a right to feel betrayed by the electoral college. We all were.

The ties to Russia and the hacks directed by Putin and the Kremlin on Trump’s behalf further clouded the matter of Trump’s ascension. How many votes would Trump had lost if this information had come out before the election? We’ll never know for certain, but it’s fair to say at least a few Trump voters may be feeling some buyer’s remorse at their decision.

And then there’s the actions Trump has taken since that dark and desolate Friday, just ten days ago. The immigration ban is by far the worst one, striking at the heart of what America has always been for the rest of the world. Those tired, huddled masses yearning to breathe free have been replaced, inside Trump’s warped mind, with a bunch of angry jihadists. The countries where the terrorists actually came from–Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and a couple more–are left alone, while seven countries that are far less of a threat statistically are left out. So what if those seven nations aren’t lucky enough to have a Trump golf course or high-rise within their borders? That’s just a happy coincidence, isn’t it?

Trump’s nominees, from Jeff Sessions on down, must now receive “extreme vetting” by the Democrats in the U.S. Senate. And what about the Supreme Court nominee, who is expected to be announced as early as tomorrow? That needs to be a war like none other that has ever been seen. Clarence Thomas should wince by the time that process is over, if it ever does come to an end.

I love the sight of protests in airports and peaceful marches through cities and towns of all sizes, and all around the world. Trump’s presidency has awakened something that I had always hoped was there: the defiant mood of a people who realize that America is worth fighting for. And fight we must. Resistance is the watchword of whatever number of days or weeks remain in Trump’s presidency. I’m not suggesting violence in the streets, because Trump and the strongman facade will spring into action if that happens. More restraint will be needed, instead. But the cause couldn’t be any more important.

The time for remaining silent probably ended before Trump’s inauguration address. As Thomas Paine once wrote, “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.” A Mike Pence presidency doesn’t seem like too much of a triumph to me, but we have to get Donald Trump removed from office. Every day his presidency reaches new depths, the likes of which Jefferson and Franklin and the others in Philadelphia could scarcely imagine.

I long for the day when this blog goes back to trivial things like guitar solos and baseball games. But on January 31, 2017, we aren’t at that point. A hard struggle lies ahead, and I’m in for whatever happens along the way.  The continued viability of America is at stake.

About that wall…

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The first week of the new presidency has shocked and alarmed everyone that I know. It’s an onslaught on the nation that still is, and will always be, my home. Since I love America, I’m willing to fight for it. I won’t sit and watch as our water is imperiled, our openness to immigration is shut down, and our treasury is further depleted in the name of “securing the borders.”

Simply put, the wall won’t work, and building it would be a terrible and unprecedented waste of resources. But Congress has become nothing but a servile accomplice, and they seem to be willing to appropriate whatever amount of money is requested. And they consider themselves to be fiscal conservatives? That’s a good one.

So in all the debate over building this ill-advised wall, the obvious issue is one that I haven’t seen raised anywhere, by anyone. Since this blog is my soapbox for addressing the world, I’m going to ask the question myself:

Does anyone truly believe there won’t be massive corruption involved?

Because I sure don’t. With that much money involved, and apparently no Congressional oversight being contemplated, the opportunities for graft are almost beyond description.

Will there be a bidding process to acquire materials at the lowest possible price?

Will land acquisition costs be paid fairly, or will politically connected people receive massive windfalls, instead?

Will contractors be selected for the quality of their work, or will their political allegiances carry the day?

And most importantly of all, how much of this $12-20 billion will end up in the pockets of Donald Trump?

These are questions that must be answered, but they haven’t even been asked yet. In the service of the great nation that I love, I’m willing to throw these out into the vastness of cyberspace. The wall is a terrible idea, which also threatens to become a swindle of epic proportions. We must not allow that to happen.

#Resist

The battle is joined

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Yesterday I wrote that I wasn’t too happy to call myself an American. Today I take it all back.

250,000 people in Chicago–my wife and younger daughter among them–participated in a march that grew so large that there was no marching to be done. Cities around the country, and even around the world, also joined in, and the total is easily in the millions. Not a single person of those millions was happy about the ascension of Donald Trump to the presidency, either.

Trump sent out his press secretary to lecture the press about inauguration crowd size estimates, and basically try to shame the press into reporting the things that Trump and his people approve of. Oh, and deflect attention away from the marches that were going on at the very same time. It was an awful performance, but if it serves to get the people more fired up and ready to go than they already were, it will be a great thing, indeed.

I wasn’t able to attend the march today, but I did pass by it at one point. I noticed a sign saying “History has its eyes on us,” which is an obvious reference to Hamilton. The pro-Trump crowd will desperately search for something else–anything else–to put their eyes on at the end of this terrible day for them. But the message has been delivered, and Trump and his people would be terribly unwise to ignore it.

The Resistance begins

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Today was a dark day for my country. I’ll never want another one, but today I wasn’t too happy to call myself an American.

When 11 AM rolled around, and I heard the first strains of that all-too-familiar voice, I couldn’t listen to it. Presidential inaugurations have mattered to me, ever since the nuns brought a TV into a classroom to watch Jimmy Carter’s inauguration in 1977. Watching TV in the classroom was a BFD, as Joe Biden might put it, and since then it always seemed like a good idea to listen to what the new president had to say. But it wasn’t like that today. Not in the least.

I judged a middle school science fair today, and was able to take on an additional project during the time of the inauguration speech. Science is apparently going to be politicized and de-legitimized in the coming years, in the name of raising corporate profits and continuing the assault on the planet we call home. When did Rex Tillerson, and the people who reported to people he knew at Exxon, first know that the icecaps were melting because of fossil fuels being burned? Was it on the day I watched Jimmy Carter sworn in as president, some 40 years ago? No, but it was just a few months later than that. And now Exxon will have one of their own shaping our foreign policy. How could it get any worse than that?

But just wait, because it does. Betsy DeVos has no background in Education, and no interest in  making the public schools system any better on her watch, either. She’ll gladly oversee the crippling of public education, and attack anyone and everyone who tries to stand up for the status quo. Public schools aren’t perfect, and they never will be. But we need a robust public school system in this country. And if we don’t have that, we’ll never be the best we can be.

So I was happy to be talking science with a seventh grader, discussing what significant figures are and hearing about his use of the scientific method. It was far more useful to me–and frankly, to society itself–than listening to a speech that was apparently more of the same from the guy who will be the president until further notice. Alec Baldwin thinks two months is what he’ll get, and that would be fine with me. However long it ends up being, the clock is now ticking.

Into the abyss

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The day that I’ve been dreading since last November is finally here. On Friday, January 20, 2017, America plunges into a deep, dark abyss. The look of trepidation on my young daughter’s face in this picture from a few years ago sums up the way I feel right now.

I wish I had a glimmer of hope to offer up in this space, but I don’t know what it might be. Not a single one of the cabinet nominees that I’ve seen so far appears to be right for the job. It seems like a rogue’s gallery, specifically designed to make a shambles of the government as a bulwark against tyranny. And if that sounds like hyperbole, it isn’t meant to be.

So let it come–since apparently it must–and let’s hope I’m wrong in my dire assessments. I’ll gladly eat some crow here, if it should come to that. But I’m not the least bit optimistic, either.

2 + 2 = 4

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George Orwell’s 1984 grabbed a hold of me when I read it in high school back in the 1980s, and it hasn’t let go since. But never did I think I’d actually be living through it, the way it appears all of us are today.

Near the end of the book, after Winston’s secret life with Julia has been discovered and rubbed out, the pace of Orwell’s writing becomes frantic. Everything is gone, nothing matters anymore, and Winston is holding fast to the idea that some things are objectively true.

“2+2 =4. Remember that!” Orwell admonishes us all. The powers that be –IngSoc in the novel itself–will tell you that 2+2 =5, but we must always be ready to assert that the truth is not what someone else decides it is. 2+2 has to equal four, because if we ever give up and allow it to equal five, they win and the rest of us lose.

At the Golden Globes the other night, Meryl Streep gave a speech about Trump mocking a reporter with a disability. Trump (and that’s all he’ll ever be to me–no titles will be appended to his name on January 20th) responded with his typical bluster and buffoonery, first by calling her overrated (which is demonstrably not true) and stating that he did not mock the reporter.

I know what mocking looks like. It’s impossible to find someone who hasn’t actively been mocked, or mocked someone else, or stood by as another was being mocked. Mockery is the fruit of the bad side of human nature, and we’ve all seen it. For Trump to say he didn’t mock the reporter is the same thing as trying to tell us that 2+2 =5. The question is are we willing to cast aside that which we know (2+2=4) and allow others to define it for us, instead?

I’m hereby calling bullshit on that. Orwell tells us to hold fast to what we know, and that’s what I’m going to do.

Trump could very easily offer an apology for what he did, even though it wouldn’t be the tiniest bit sincere. He could use the old “I apologize if anyone was offended” line that gets used all the time in statements like this. But no, that’s not who he is. The four years ahead of us all are scarier than anything I’ve ever contemplated. But 2+2 is always going to equal 4 to me, no matter what Donald Trump says to the contrary.

 

Farewell to 2016

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It’s been quite a ride, and I’ll always consider 2016 as a good year, because it was the “Next Year” that I had waited a very long time to see.

I went to Wrigley Field a few days after the Cubs’ World Series victory over the Cleveland Indians, and I wrote my recently departed friend’s name in chalk on a ticket window, a thank you to Harold Ramis in one place on the sidewalk, and “I’m glad I lived to see this” on another part of the sidewalk. Everything was powerwashed away the next day, so I was glad to have made the effort to get there when I did.

My Cubs buzz was as profound as it was short. The election of Donald Trump, less than a week after the Cubs’ victory, brought many people’s baseball-fueled euphoria to a crashing halt, but for me it ended a few days earlier than that. Mark Adams was a great friend–my drinking buddy, at an age when I wasn’t supposed to have one–but I hadn’t spoken to him in over 30 years. Life is like that sometimes. He died at a hospital in New York in August, a day after his 48th birthday, but I only learned of it through a newspaper obituary published on the Saturday after the Cubs won. So I got to enjoy about three days of supreme happiness, before life and death reminded me of how fragile everything on this planet can be.

The sad but unavoidable fact is that not everyone who rings in 2017 tonight will be here when it’s over. We lost many people that we once knew in 2016, and we’ll lose even more in 2017. Life goes on, until it doesn’t anymore. And the world will somehow continue spinning without us.

As we put a great and tragic year to rest in a few hours’ time, I’m hopeful that everyone remembers to enjoy our time here, and appreciate the ever-changing cast of characters who are along for the ride. Nothing lasts forever, nor will any of us. So let’s have some fun while we can.

 

 

What’s your definition of dirty, baby?

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I would be lying if I said I was, or ever considered myself as, a fan of George Michael’s music. In the free-wheeling days of the 1980s in which I grew up, I listened to the skirt-chasing, hellraising bands that made up the hair metal scene, but to groove on George Michael and his bubblegum pop stuff would have been a bridge too far for me in those days.

But having said that, I would also be lying if I said I wasn’t familiar with a lot of his music. Wham! first, um, made it big when I was in high school, his Faith album dropped when I was in college, and his radio relevancy continued into my first few years of post-college. Those are the years when musical tastes and memories are formed, and there he was, right in the middle of it. So how could I not have something to say about George Michael’s passing at age 53? Well, it turns out that I have got something to say about it.

When the Faith album came out in my sophomore year in college, the lead single was called “I Want Your Sex.” The desire for sex drives all of popular music, and it always will, but the word itself was largely missing–with one notable exception–until George Michael came along.

One predecessor that I can think of was the song “DMSR” from Prince’s 1999 album in the early 1980s. The meaning of those four letters are “Dance Music Sex Romance” and the word “sex” appeared in the song’s chorus a couple of times, but it could be that the use of those initials was intended to self-censor the word from the title to the song.

George Michael’s song did have a radio edit that I remember hearing, but I can’t recall if it was in and around Springfield, Illinois or someplace else. But the song edited out the word “sex” so that it effectively sounded like “I want your” being sung over and over again. But the word appeared in the title everywhere, and in the all-important music video (these were the 80s, after all) there was never any question about George Michael’s intentions or his lyrics. He wanted to get busy in the worst way, and he was more direct about it than any song that I can remember up to that point.

Now that we’ve had “I Wanna Sex You Up” and “Let’s Talk About Sex” and many other songs in that vein on the radio, it seems almost quaint to be bringing this up now. And the fact that George Michael was a gay man who had to hide who really was until 1998 makes his story all the more tragic. His music got the attention that it did because he was singing about the old-fashioned boy-meets-girl attraction. And while we’ve since moved toward acceptance of other sexual preferences, I can’t imagine that George Michael telling another guy he wanted to get it on would ever get too far on mass-market radio stations.

Speaking of mass-market and mass-media news, they’ll all be weighing in about his music and what it means. They’ll try to shape public opinion, just as they always do. But I write this blog because I like to share my own take on things, and sometimes it’s worth reading and other times it may not be. But the word S-E-X was seldom heard on the radio before George Michael came along, and for that alone he deserves to be recognized.

Thanks for the music and rest in peace!