Sunday, December 31, 2017

#232 - Another Lap Around The Sun

Well, we've made it. We've reached the end of 2017 and are about to embark on the new 365-day journey we will know as 2018.

For many of us, 2017 has been quite a year. New words and non-words have entered the public consciousness (covfefe, anyone?), familiar faces have left us, while other familiar and not-so-familiar names and faces have been in the news for unexpected reasons.

There is a lot on my mind as I write this and much I could say about 2017 (and probably would with a bit more alcohol), but there are several words that come to mind as I think back over the past 365 days.

Eventful is the first word that comes to mind. 2017 has been an eventful year in many ways. Of course, we swore in a new President who has managed to get his name and face in the news every single day since. We've also had numerous events both at home and abroad that have filled the front pages of newspapers (remember those?) and the screens of newscasts everywhere.

Another word that comes to mind and which relates to my first word is busy. 2017 has been a very busy year, at least for us, and it certainly feels as if it has been busy for a great many other people as well.

We've had friends move, other friends sending off their children to college, relatives having children. In other words, life. Somehow, though, it seems as if life itself is getting busier. That could be due to the increased presence of social media, which allows me to stay in touch more easily with family and friends and to reconnect with long-lost friends (a positive) while also allowing people to spew hate speech and angry words at people they don't know simply because they disagree (a negative).

Life could also be busier simply because there are more of us on this planet and, therefore, more people to interact with, respond to, account for, be influenced by.

For us, 2017 was busier simply because we were doing more. Our son turned 21, so there was additional work trying to help him transition into adulthood. We also did more with music, performing some 30 gigs around town. And we managed to put together a CD of original music and write a number of new songs.

I'm sure 2018 will be its own share of challenges and adventures. For one, there will be the challenge and adventure of growing another year older. (I won't make any claim to getting wiser.) There will be much, no doubt, that will play out on the national and international stage. And, of course, there will be the usual cycle of life occurrences associated with living and dying.

When I was younger, I liked to make ten resolutions, all of which I would break over the course of the new year, usually before January ended. This year, I think I'll stick to one resolution, though it has several parts.

In 2018, I resolve to continue working toward becoming more comfortable in my own skin and to becoming truer to my self and to my convictions, to determining what I truly believe and working to live up to those beliefs.

May the new year bring each of you joy and peace and music. You know what they say - a day without music is like a day without sunshine. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

#231 - My Christmas Wish

It is closing in on midnight as I write these words. Soon it will be Christmas. In many ways, Christmas this year will be much like Christmases past. In other ways, not so much.

2017 has been a momentous year in many ways, but I'll save my thoughts on that for next week as we get ready to leave one year behind and embark on yet another journey around the sun.

Instead, I'll simply say Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate Christmas, and Happy Holidays to those of you who don't. If you happen to be Jewish, I hope your Hanukkah commemoration was truly special and meaningful.

My one Christmas wish for all of you is actually three things rolled into one. May the holiday bring you much love and joy and, most importantly, peace. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

#230 - Another Trip Around The Sun

"You load sixteen tons, what do you get / Another day older and deeper in debt"
- "Sixteen Tons" - Tennessee Ernie Ford

Another year of my life has come and gone. Today is my birthday, and I am embarking on another trip around the sun. Even though I am at a stage in my life when things are supposed to slow down, in some ways I am busier than ever.

Although, my activity on this blog has slowed, this past year has been pretty busy on other fronts. In addition to this blog, I have a second blog in which I share my creative writing efforts. You can check it out here: My Wordsmithing.

In addition to that blog, my wife and I have been pretty busy performing our original music and covering music of other artists we enjoy. We probably did at least a couple dozen gigs of two-hours or more in the past year. It isn't a living, but it is a nice hobby.

As a result, I have not spent as much time on this blog as I meant to. Of course, these gaps have occurred in the past, either because I didn't have anything to say or because I had too much to say and wasn't sure where to start.

This blog was always intended to share my random thoughts and opinions on various things. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, the world itself has become seemingly more random. As a result, my random thoughts and opinions no longer feel so random to me.

Because of that, this blog, while I have no intention of abandoning it, will likely become more infrequent simply because I feel like the My Wordsmithing blog allows me to express myself in the way I do best, musically.

This blog could turn into something more political in nature, or I may experiment with using this blog as a vehicle for podcasting, time permitting.

Before I go, I want to thank my wife Teresa for spending the past 25 birthdays with me. She has definitely made them more enjoyable, more worthwhile, and more worth sticking around for. I hope each of you has or finds someone to help make your birthdays more special.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

#229 - Because, You Know, He's All About That Base

First off, I should apologize to Meghan Trainor for alluding to her hit single in the title of today's entry. On the other hand, it seems appropriate.

While people still struggle to climb out from underneath the wreckage in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico caused by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, our President is busy accusing NFL players of being unpatriotic and divisive and basically laying blame for the disorganized rescue response in Puerto Rico at the feet of the victims. All of this, despite the fact that he himself displayed a first grade knowledge of geography when describing where Puerto Rico is.

Many on the right end of the political spectrum spent the first several months of the current administration calling those on the left divisive and encouraging them (actually, more like berating or browbeating them) to unite behind this President, something they failed to do during eight years of the previous administration. It's time to call the man and his supporters out for what they are. Hypocrites.

During the Presidential campaign, supporters of this President called for his opponent to be put in prison for her use of a private e-mail server while conducting government business. Now that it appears some of this President's inner circle have been doing the same exact thing. Where are the calls for prison now? Crickets. Hypocrisy at its finest.

Of course, his advisers and staff take their lead from the man at the top. And while he spends a lot of his time and public meanderings catering to his base, it ultimately is really all about him. He somehow manages to bring everything back to him and what a great job he is doing as President. Narcissus would be proud.

If he isn't giving himself credit for something that actually began or occurred during the previous administration ( some of the early economic reports come to mind), he's busy taking credit or proclaiming success for something that hasn't actually happened (the building of "The Wall," the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and the great job the federal government is doing with relief efforts in Puerto Rico are all examples). And if he isn't doing either of those things, he is busy blaming other people for their problems or his own (blaming the Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico for aid not getting to those in need and "Fake News" immediately come to mind). Hypocrite-in-Chief.

Episodes like these are partly what San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich had in mind when he said America "is an embarrassment" to the rest of the world. Ronald Reagan famously coined the term "trickle-down economic" to argue that benefits flow from the top down. Well, something else is flowing down from on high, and it sure isn't money or respect or anything good.

I'll be the first to admit I did not do enough to prevent this man's election to the Presidency, although I did vote for his opponent. I'll also be the first to admit I have not done enough to oppose this man now that he is in office. Part of the reason for that is I have friends with opposing views whom I have tried not to anger or offend. But the time for worrying about that has passed.

While I can respect the fact that some people have differing views that I on issues such as immigration, the economy, the environment (well, not so much that one), foreign aid, and the like, I can no longer respect the fact that they voted for a man so obviously unqualified to be President of anything other than his own mutual admiration society.

The fact that people continue to support this egotistical blowhard in spite of increasing evidence that he is mentally and morally deficient negates any merit their arguments on other issues may have. The fact that what I say may offend or anger some to the point they no longer want to be my friends no longer worries me. The time for silence has long since passed.

Monday, September 25, 2017

#228 - We Just Don't Get It

This morning, as I often do, I played catch up with my news feed on Facebook. I noticed a number of my friends were upset with the NFL.

Specifically, they were upset with players not coming out of the locker room for the National Anthem and were also upset with players kneeling for same said anthem. They just don't get it.

Many of those same people were upset when people took to the streets during any number of protests over the last couple of years when various police shootings were reported in the news. They just don't get it

They were also upset when people gathered in various parks around the country to protest the presence of Confederate monuments and demand they be removed. They just don't get it.

Protest is not supposed to be comfortable. It is meant to disturb, to upset, to shake the status quo. Does anyone really believe the protests against the Vietnam War would have been as effective if they had only been a letter-writing campaign.

We say we are fine with people protesting until they actually do. Then, we find some fault with the message or the manner of the protest. We just don't get it

The NFL players being maligned by our President have picked perhaps the least violent, yet visible means of protest they could to call attention to what they see as a real issue of race in this country. Instead of listening to their concerns or engaging them in meaningful dialogue, he tries to suppress their First Amendment rights by calling them unpatriotic and suggesting they should be fired from their teams. He just doesn't get it.

Protest is patriotic. Protest is American. In fact, protest is perhaps the most patriotic, most American act a person can engage in. America was founded on the rock of protest. (Boston Tea Party or American Revolution, anyone?)

The American Revolution was not called the American Disagreement or Dispute or Argument for a reason. Revolution is the ultimate expression of protest when all other means of calling attention to an issue or an imbalance fail. These NFL players, and the many engaging in protests to call attention to continuing racial issues in this country are simply carrying on perhaps the most American of traditions. The rest of us just don't get it.

Monday, August 28, 2017

#227 - Struggling With Myself

Sometimes, the hardest battles are the ones you wage with yourself. For instance, at the moment, I am fighting over myself concerning just what it is I bring to the world's table. On days like this, I'm not so sure.

For instance . . . for years, I have called myself a writer or a would-be writer or a writer wannabe. The fact is, I really none of those. I can write and well. But I lack both the passion and the discipline to be a writer.

In college, I dabbled in writing poetry. I also wrote a novella. A bad novella, but a novella nonetheless. I have also written lyrics for somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,500 songs, roughly 50 of which have actually been put to music because I also lack the discipline and determination to learn any musical instrument well enough to be able to do my arrangements or write the music for any of my songs, many of which do have melodies bouncing around in my head.

I know in my heart that few people read anything I write or value any opinion I might have or any advice I might give. This blog, which was meant to be a continual stream of my thoughts, views, and ideas, has instead turned into the very occasional uttering of someone who writes when he gets too bored with the everyday trappings of his existence and finally feels the need to do something different or in addition to the normal routine.

In some ways, it is safe to say I lack the courage of my convictions, even the courage of my dreams. Along the way of my thus far 60-year journey on this planet, I have had and abandoned numerous dreams, none of which I apparently felt strongly about to risk pursuing. If I did, I might be the architect I dreamt of being in seventh grade or the lawyer I thought I would become in high school or even the world traveler I had hoped by now to be.

Instead, I respond on Facebook to people who hold views opposed to those I say I hold or try to make humorous comments about something someone else has posted. Or I agree with someone about something they have said.

I am not on the front lines of any fight or even on the back lines, for that matter. I sit safely at my desk, at my computer, and watch the world go by, rushing past me ever faster, without the courage to join in.

I think I can sing. I think I can write. But it wasn't until I was nearly 60 years of age that I even tried to share my singing or my songwriting with others. It turns out few want to hear it.

The first post of this blog was written January 25, 2008. That means that in a little more than four months this blog will be ten years old. In nearly ten years, I have managed to write 227 posts counting this one. I have managed to draw all of 15,068 total views in that time, which is actually more than I expected.

This year, I have written nine posts, including this one. It isn't that I don't think I have things to say. It's just that most days I don't say them because I don't think anyone will read or care what I have to say.

I have had three posts out of 226 previous posts that have garnered more than 100 page views. Roughly one-third of my posts have been viewed by fewer than ten people, including one just last month. Four posts have never been viewed. If I am a writer, I am a niche writer at best.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with any of this. Perhaps it's self-pity. Perhaps it's a realization that whatever I have to say isn't really all that unique. Who knows?

When I started this blog, it was not actually with the idea that it would attract a large following. On the other hand, I did hope that some people would read it. Occasionally, some people do. More often, though, people do not.

I'm not sure what any of this means for the future of this blog. I sometimes wish I had a focused interest or handful of interests that people could rely on reading about on these virtual pages. It would likely result in a more reliable readership, not to mention a more predictable publishing pattern. But I don't.

Unfortunately, my interests can change from day to day, just as my mind can wander from one subject to the next, sometimes without warning. That, in fact, may be the key reason I cannot consider myself an actual writer. My mind is often not capable of staying engaged in a subject long enough to write about it. That, in term, may be why I write song lyrics and not longer forms of prose.

Truth is, I don't really know that either. On the other hand, since it is likely that few people will see this, let alone read it, I suppose I can use this blog as a sounding board.

For a while, I had hopes of easily reaching 500 posts on this blog, which is why I began numbering them. Now that seems a bit out of reach since I am less than halfway to that number one decade into writing this blog.

Right now, at this moment, I do not know what it is I want to say or what it is I have to say. Perhaps things will be different tomorrow. In which case I'll be back with a new entry, though I'm not counting on it.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

#226 - Guess what? It really IS all about me

Recently, a Facebook friend of mine was called out for her post about voice. In it, she asked that other voices seeking to be heard not be shamed or silenced. She then went on to talk about the challenges, misadventures, and issues she has faced and continues to fight to work through and overcome.

In addition to the outpouring of love and support she received from most of her Facebook friends, there was this disturbing response:

Honestly, your post sounds like you perceive everything as being all about you. Most people, whether they be spouses, lovers, children, friends, are going to eventually have a problem with that.

 To which my Facebook friend replied (among other things):

When I'm writing something about my life and stories about what I've experienced, how can it not be something to do with me?

Well, guess what? It can't. Each person's Facebook account is about them in one way or another. Some people get deeply personal in their posts while others reveal themselves in more subtle and not so subtle ways through the items they choose to share and/or like.

My friend is a writer and, based on what I've read, a very powerful one. So, naturally, her posts are going to often be more personal and more intense than someone who adopts what I'll call the "let's all get along" approach and only posts pictures of cats and the like.

Yet both types of posts are about the posters and reveal aspects of their personalities and personas. In my friend's case, she has revealed herself as a fighter and, more importantly, a survivor. She has, I think (and she should correct me if I'm wrong), decided to no longer allow others to stand in the way of her quest for well-being and happiness.

This approach to life fits with how I have always viewed the words of Christ when he commanded us to "love thy neighbor as thyself." If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If one does not take care of and love her or himself, how can that person truly love another? They can't. Not really. I know.

In the case of my second fictional Facebook poster (based on a composite of several people I've encountered on Facebook), what seems to be revealed is a desire to avoid conflict and keep people at arm's length. It is possible this person has also been hurt before and, rather than confronting that, has chosen to try to avoid going through it again. Regardless, they do not seem to want to face or deal with difficult topics or issues, at least not publicly.

Everything we post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like is about us in that we reveal something of ourselves: what we like, what we think, what we feel, what we believe. All of this helps to form a picture, perhaps imperfect, though perhaps less so than we believe, of who we are and the type of person we are.

In the case of the disturbing response I shared earlier, that person revealed themselves to be the selfish and self-absorbed person they implicitly accused my friend of being. They were focused on how such a post would affect them and make them feel instead of how to help and/or support my friend.

I'm not a psychiatrist or a psychologist and have never played one on television. Nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. So I could be wrong about all of this. It has been known to happen.

On the other hand, these are my perceptions, and since this blog and my Facebook page are all about me, I'll conclude that I'm right. After all, this is my blog, and it didn't cost you anything (aside from a little time) to read it. Remember, you get what you pay for.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

#225 - When The Words All Wash Away

Toward the end of March, I posted the words to a song I had written titled "When The Words." The song was inspired by a Facebook conversation with another musician/songwriter about inspiration and how it often comes at inconvenient times, such as when we are doing dishes or taking a shower.

This post has nothing to do with that song, but the title seemed appropriate. Words are supposed to help us make sense of things good and bad, help us explain things to others, help us to communicate. There are, however, other times when words seem inadequate, even though they are all we have.

This is one of those times.

Earlier today, I got word that my brother-in-law had died suddenly, of an apparent heart attack. When such events occur, I imagine most people go through some series of reactions and emotions. First and foremost is the feeling of sadness for the family, in this case my sister and her children and grandchildren.

Second, perhaps, is a feeling of shock. My brother-in-law was my age, perhaps a year or two younger. Third for many people, though they would not want to admit it and might even be likely to deny it, is a sense of relief that it isn't them. This feeling may be stronger the further removed one is.

Right now, I suppose I am rather numb. I liked my brother-in-law and know he was a good husband to my sister and a good father to his three children, but I can't say we were particularly close. I had only seen him (and my sister) a handful of times in the last ten or 15 years. I don't know that anyone is to blame for that. It's just how things worked out.

I know my sister is hurting right now. I know her children are hurting right now. I'm not quite sure what to say to them. The words have all washed away.

At times like this, words have a tendency to become cliches or platitudes, all uttered by well-meaning well-wishers who, like me, are not sure what to say. Perhaps platitudes and cliches are exactly the things to say. Having never been much good at platitudes and cliches myself, I am left at a loss for words.

Not being a religious man myself (though hopefully a spiritual one), I have no words to offer up on high. I hope that God is watching over the family, but I don't claim to know one way or another.

There is, though, one thing I do believe and have for some time. So long as you keep the memories of a loved one close to you, hold those memories in your heart, the person is never really gone or lost. Perhaps that is the true afterlife.

I think there was a line in a movie or television show to the effect that death is but another step in the journey each of us makes. That notion appeals to me. If that is, in fact, the case, I hope my brother-in-law and I can get together for a conversation and a drink and make up for the time we lost on this side.

Until then, Godspeed, Kenny.

Friday, July 7, 2017

#224 - Where Does The Time Go?

I realized this morning it had been more than three months since my last entry on these pages. Where did the time go?

Perhaps more accurately, I should ask myself where didn't the time go? It seems it went everywhere.

Over the last several months, my wife and I have been busy at various times working to get ready for our son's graduation, preparing and performing musical gigs around town, recording and editing a self-produced CD, get ready for several house projects. Oh, and we managed to get in a couple of excursions in the RV.

I believe Einstein came up with the idea that if one were able to travel at the speed of light, he or she could then basically make time stand still. Lately, it feels as if I have been moving faster than the speed of light, but time still seems to rush past.

I'm no Einstein (and have never played one on television), but I would like to posit my own theory of time and space. It seems to me that the speed at which time passes increases in conjunction with chronological age.

When we are younger, time seems to pass so much more slowly. As a child, how many times did you or a sibling ask your parents, "Are we there yet?" As we age into adulthood, we enter the world of appointments and deadlines and the dreaded "time crunch."

A second facet of the Huntsman theory of time and space could be stated thus: The speed at which time passes increases in direct proportion to the demands placed on said time.

For instance, how many times have you said or wished there were more than 24 hours in the day in order to get everything done that needs doing? Or how many times have you gotten involved in a task you thought might take an hour only to look up at the clock and realize several hours have passed?

I'll wrap this discussion up with a complete statement of my theory of time and space:

1) Advancements in chronological age result in a quickening pace of time passing.

2) Increased demands on one's time result in time passing at a more rapid rate.

3) The speed at which time passes increases or decreases in opposition to one's physical and mental state of being. When in a place and state of relaxation and well-being, time passes more quickly. ("Where did the weekend go?") When in a place and state of agitation, anxiety, and/or stress and pressure, time slows. ("Isn't this day over yet?" "Today just seemed to drag on.")

4) Time, when viewed in retrospect, is more often than not seen as wasted or misused. ("I should have done X." or "I could have been doing Y.") This is especially true when one's use or spending of time is reviewed by another. ("What did you do with your time?")

As for the last three months without an entry on these pages, the time just got away from me.

Monday, March 6, 2017

#223 - Anti-Social Aspects of Social Media

For several years, some have asked whether social media actually makes people antisocial. The New York Times first explored this question in 2010, visiting it again two years later.

The question of whether social media is making us more antisocial has been raised in places as diverse as car discussion forums and IBM. One informal poll on shows 77-percent of respondents believe social media makes us more antisocial.

Most of these responses and articles focus on the always-connected nature of modern society. They contend that even when people get together they often spend more time looking at and interacting with their phones than they do with one another.

In the informal poll on, some of the 23-percent who contend social media does not make us antisocial say social media "gives you a kind of boldness which is really helpful." They also cite the usefulness of social media in keeping track of distant friends and family members.

I can personally attest to both of these things. I have stayed connected and reconnected with family and friends through social media. However, I can also attest to the negative flip side of the "kind of boldness," which I don't see as being "really helpful."

My own belief, based on my own experience and anecdotal evidence from simply reading comments of others on Facebook, is that there is a sense in which social media makes us antisocial. I am not speaking of people always staring at their phones or their computers or their tablets.

The antisocial aspect of social media I refer to is the freedom it gives to people to say things to one another they would not say to another person's face. While there is a positive aspect to this freedom in that it allows everyone a voice, there are some downsides to this freedom as well.

For one thing, I personally believe social media has given rise to more questionable media/news sites, sites whose stories get more attention and are believed by more people simply because they get spread and shared on social media. As a result, trust in more conventional and mainstream sources becomes diminished.

Perhaps worse, is that people feel more free to ridicule others, call names, shame people, and even accuse them of being anti-American, anti-God, etc. simply because they see things differently. Since the election, I have been called any number of things I have never been called to my face.

Even when you know the person doing the name-calling, I think there is still a sense of anonymity (you see just the name, not their face), an electronic barrier between you and them that emboldens them (or you) to say things you likely would not say if you were in the same room together.

I recently unfriended someone on Facebook (for the first time) as a result of this sort of antisocial behavior. It was not because I disagreed with his views, although I do. It was because I was ridiculed for my beliefs and called things like "libtard," "crybaby," and "liar."

Social media makes it all too easy to get wrapped up in our emotions without the normal filters we use to keep from crossing that invisible line from passionate arguing to flat-out rudeness and disrespect. Most of us have either stepped on that line or stepped over it. I'm sure I have, although I try not to.

It is this aspect of social media that I worry about more than the image many conjure up of people always staring at their phones so as to not miss a tweet, a Facebook post, an Instagram message, or a Snapchat video. Perhaps this is a reflection of the society in which we live.

On the other hand, perhaps society has become more divided as a result of our reduced ability or willingness to filter what we say thanks to the power of social media to allow us to say whatever we want whenever we want to say it. I am beginning to lean in this direction.

For those of you who disagree and with whom I am still connected through social media, you are welcome to your opinions. Please just try to keep them civil.

Oh, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't always feel the need to scream out your opinions (through the use of ALL CAPS). Conversations are usually more fulfilling and more useful when they are two-way, and that cannot happen if one side is always yelling. My virtual ears thank you.

Monday, February 27, 2017

#222 - Time Keeps On Slipping, Slipping, Slipping

"I felt the beat of my mind go drifting into time passages, years go falling in the fading light" - Al Stewart "Time Passages"

In December, I marked a milestone birthday. For those unaware, a milestone birthday is one of those occasions you are mostly happy to have reached. At the same time, a part of you laments that another such day has come and gone, leaving you to contemplate the fact of aging and, if you are morbidly inclined, think about your own mortality.

To mark the occasion, I wrote a song I simply titled "Time." (You can view the lyrics here.) It addresses and references, I think, the typical things one thinks about as one ages - lost opportunities, wasted time, life sort of sneaking up on you and then past - you know, cheerful stuff like that.

I don't know whether it has or can be scientifically proven, but anecdotal evidence, along with my own personal observation, suggests that it is in fact true that time passes more quickly as one ages.

It is as if, rather than proceeding along a straight line, time follows an arc. It seems to climb uphill (and thus pass more slowly) when one is younger. How many of us when we were young would blurt out to our parents or some other adult "I can't wait until I'm old enough to move out and live on my own" or words to that effect?

When we are young, time seems to drag in a sense. It is as if some unseen hand is holding the reins, slowing us down to keep us from rushing too fast into our future.

As we enter adulthood, time's arc seems to level out a bit. There is still a slight uphill climb as we establish our careers, perhaps marry and begin a family. We hit a sort of pinnacle where we are somewhat established professionally and personally while still young enough to pursue new goals and dreams.

Then we hit middle-age. The downhill portion of the arc begins. Our children, if we have them, seem to grow up overnight. Our careers, perhaps, no longer hold the allure they once did. Or other thoughts begin to compete for space - travel, retirement, grandchildren. We begin to lose friends and family to illness or age at a greater rate.

This is not to say that we all take to our rocking chairs and simply wait for the end to come. It does mean that we begin to recognize that there is an end point. Perhaps we try to cram in things we thought of doing when we were younger but never got around to for one reason or another.

In my case, that thing has been music. I've always enjoyed singing, and when I was younger, I thought I had a decent voice. So, I began taking voice lessons. For the last few years, with the help of my wife, I have been regularly singing around town.

For years, I wrote song lyrics as a way to express my emotions and dreams. As I've gotten older, those efforts have improved to the point that I wanted to share them with others. Again with my wife's help, I have been able to set a number of those lyrics to music. In December of 2015, we put some of those songs on a CD for friends and family. This summer, we hope to put out another CD.

Last fall, I also began taking guitar lessons. At this stage in life, I have no illusion or aspiration of becoming the next Chet Atkins, Mark Knoffler, or Carlos Santana. However, I hope to learn enough to be able to arrange some of my own songs and perhaps even accompany myself on occasion.

I do not know exactly where on time's arc I currently reside. I know I am on the downhill portion of the arc (unless our average lifespan suddenly increases to 150 years or more). I also know there is still plenty I want to do, some of it an attempt to make up for lost and wasted time.

Some people say it is never too late to pursue your dreams. Well, technically, at some point it is too late. (Death comes to mind.) However, I have not yet reached that point. So, I keep on dreaming, and I keep on chasing.

"Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight." - Al Stewart

Friday, February 10, 2017

#221 - Done Trying To Understand

"You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!" - Rod Serling's opening narration

I have felt as if I were living in the Twilight Zone since January 20, and it has only become more surreal in the three weeks since The Donald took the oath of office and became our 45th President.

I have to wonder, though, whether the man (or his wife or any of his advisors) actually listened to the words of that oath as he repeated them. Because since that day, it seems as if Trump has spent more time tweeting in response to things said about him than he has actually governing.

Trump has railed against a retailer for making a business decision to no longer carry his daughter's line of products due to poor sales. The fact that he doesn't seem to recognize the need to cut your losses by dropping product lines that aren't selling might help to explain his four bankruptcies and the fact that he owes hundreds of millions of dollars to his creditors. (If he were a nation, he would almost make the United States look solvent.)

A key Trump advisor, Kellyanne Conway, also spoke to the decision by Nordstrom to discontinue the Ivanka Trump line in a clear violation of law. (Not to mention her repeated mention of a terrorist attack that never took place. #rememberBowlingGreen)

Trump's wife is suing a British newspaper, claiming among other things that its stories have harmed her ability to profit from the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that comes with being First Lady. Are we next to see the Trump Hotel brand proudly brandished above the portico to the White House?

None of Trump' supporters seem concerned by these blatant conflicts of interest. They continue to delude themselves into thinking that Trump is going to "drain the swamp" when, in fact, Trump is himself a swamp creature. Instead, they shout "Benghazi" and complain about protesters not giving Trump a chance, all the while failing to accept or acknowledge that millions of Americans are concerned about and opposed to the actions of this President.

I have friends and family who say they don't care how another person chooses to live his or her life. In the next breath, however, they voice their opposition to gay marriage or abortion. So, they actually do care; why don't they admit it?

They talk about turning this nation "back to God" (i.e., a return to Christianity) and have no problem in banning a different faith. They conveniently forget the fact that the Constitution prohibits establishment of a national religion or of laws regulating the practice of religion (or non-practice).

They then turn on those of us opposed to Trump's immigration ban, wondering how we can support a religion that marginalizes women while forgetting that there are Jewish sects in this country where women do not have equal standing with men. They also seem to forget that not all Muslims share the antiquated views of some more radical members with regard to women, just as most Christians no longer support slavery or stoning for eating shellfish, both of which were accepted in the Bible.

Regardless of where you stand on gay marriage or abortion, the fact is that legalizing both does not force you to do either. Whereas criminalizing both forces people to live their lives in secret and/or resort to desperate measures. It's the old "out of sight, out of mind" approach.

These same friends and family argue that they are not racist, yet they have no problem with Steve Bannon being the key advisor to Trump or with Jeff Sessions being Attorney General. Both men would be right at home in a Ku Klux Klan meeting. Instead, they point out that Democrat Robert Byrd was a Klan member for a short time in the 1940s, as if that justifies the views of these two men. Last time I looked, two wrongs did not make a right.

Do I believe everyone who supported and voted for Trump is a racist? No, not yet, but I do believe Trump is at the very least a closet racist. He is definitely a bully. He is definitely mean-spirited, and he is certainly thin-skinned.

For eight years, I watched as friends and family ranted about the lack of experience of Barack Obama before he became President. Yet these same people have no problem with Trump's lack of experience in government. Nor are they concerned that Betsy DeVos' only qualification to be Secretary of Education is the fact that she and her family donated millions to Republican political campaigns.

I admit to having a hard time understanding how supporters believe Trump gives a damn about middle-class Americans. He has never been middle-class in his life, and his Cabinet is made up primarily of rich white men.

I am convinced that if Obama had said or done half the things that Trump has said or done so far, conservatives would be screaming for his head on a platter. For some reason I can't (or maybe don't want to) comprehend, they are okay with Trump doing and saying these things and can't seem to understand why some of us are not okay with that.

Since these people can't seem to understand or seem unwilling to try to understand, I've decided I'm done trying to understand their views. I accept that there are serious problems in this country. I do not accept that they were all the result of one man's actions (Obama). Nor do I accept that hatred, fear, isolationism, dismantling of environmental protections, or daily tweets on Twitter are the path to a solution for any of these problems.

With each passing day, I grow angrier at having my patriotism questioned because I disagree with Trump's actions and his supporters. Dissent is, perhaps, one of the most patriotic acts a person can engage in. In fact, this nation was born out of dissent. Slavery was eliminated because of dissent. Women gained the right to vote because of dissent. Workers gained better wages and safer working conditions because of dissent.

Now, however, Trump supporters simply want me to shut up while it remains okay for them to belittle me because I disagree. Well, this "snowflake" does not plan to comply with their wishes. Just remember, with enough snowflakes, you get a blizzard, and I suspect it's coming.

Friday, January 20, 2017

#220 - Does Anybody Really Care?

"Does anybody really know what time it is?" - Chicago

As I write these words, we are roughly two hours away from Donald Trump taking the oath of office as this nation's 45th President. This fact makes me angry.

What makes me angrier is the fact that less than half of those casting votes actually voted for the new President, yet his supporters think that gives him an absolute mandate to change things. It does no such things. It tells me Trump needs to find a middle ground (something he's never shown much ability of doing) and fast.

What makes me angriest is that roughly half of all Americans who could vote in this past election didn't care enough to do so. That means the new President was chosen by 25-percent (or even a little less) of the people. Hardly the people's choice.

In baseball, only getting a hit 25-percent of the time makes you a marginal player at best. In football, only converting third downs 25-percent of the time makes it highly likely you will lose the game. Yet Trump supporters view his getting 25-percent of all possible votes as a sweeping victory. Seems a bit delusional to me.

To those who didn't care enough to vote - in my eyes, you are even worse than those who voted for Trump. You didn't like Hillary. Fine. Most, if not all states had other options. Me, I nearly voted for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate.

Sometimes, a protest vote is important. It registers unease, concern, even anger. Not voting registers just one thing. Apathy. It is obvious to me at this point that most people really don't care about politics. I see it all the time on Facebook.

With that in mind, I am proposing a new third party, the Apathy Party. I am willing to be the party's first presidential candidate if need be. I believe I am capable of caring as little as the next person. However, I am willing to make way if another candidate comes along who cares even less. I don't care. Just let me know. I'll get back to you. Or not.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

#219 - Dawn of a New Era or the Eve of Destruction

"Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction." - Barry McGuire, "Eve of Destruction" (written by P. F. Sloan

By this time tomorrow, the United States will be led by the 45th President, Donald Trump, arguably one of the most divisive incoming Presidents in American history based on his incoming approval rating, the lowest of any new President in history.

There are those who might also argue that the new President is perhaps the most egotistical and narcissistic man to ever occupy the White House. In the immortal words of The Eurythmics, who am I to disagree?

For most of the nine years I have irregularly posted to this blog, and for most of the previous 217 posts I have published, I have stayed away from politics and religion. While I will likely continue to leave religion as only the rare and occasional topic, I expect politics to become more prevalent, and the reason is the new man behind the curtain, Donald Trump.

I recently read an opinion piece in The Atlantic that argued the possibility that Trump may end up as one of the most corrupt presidents in our history. That notion could be dismissed as mere hyperbole were it not for the fact that it was written by John Dean, the man who served as counsel for the only President ever to resign from office, Richard Nixon.

According to Dean, Trump and Nixon share some of the same authoritarian tendencies. The difference being that Nixon held many of those tendencies in check. The early indications are that Trump does not have that same level of self-restraint. From the article:
To Dean, these moments suggested a functioning sense of shame in Nixon, something he was forced to wrestle with in his quest for power. Trump, by contrast, appears to Dean unmolested by any such struggle.
Dean goes on to suggest Trump may find himself embroiled in a Watergate-style meltdown similar to the one that forced Nixon from office. Says Dean, “he’s carrying loads of potential problems into the White House with him.” He goes on to say: “I don’t think Richard Nixon even comes close to the level of corruption we already know about Trump.”

So, those who feel Trump will be a disaster as President can look forward to an early end to the Trump Presidency, right? Not if Dean is correct in his assessment of how things have changed in America since Watergate.

According to Dean the checks and balances system has been weakened by "partisan paralysis." For evidence of some of this paralysis at work just look back to the government shutdown and near shutdown, along with the constant gridlock in Congress over the last several years.

Much as many argue we have become desensitized to violence by the plethora of video games, Dean believes we have become desensitized to political scandal. After Watergate, Dean says America was on high alert. But now, according the article, "that culture of vigilance has so eroded that it’s nearly impossible now to envision a sin so grave, or a revelation so explosive, that it would lead to the ouster of a sitting president." Says Dean, “the Trump campaign is an interesting measure of how high the tolerance has gotten for a public figure’s misbehavior.”

An indication of how little we seem to care about even the possibility of impropriety with regard to a Trump presidency can be seen in the reactions of many to the choices put forth for Trump's Cabinet. The fact is that few, if any supporters are concerned by the fact that most of the nominees either have worked against the agencies they are now supposed to lead or are rich, like Trump.

The proposed head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, has sued the EPA a number of times on behalf of companies opposed to EPA regulations even though ten-percent of the children in his state suffer from asthma, a condition exacerbated by pollution.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, Trump's proposed Secretary of Energy, wants to shut down the agency. Secretary of Labor nominee Andrew Puzder has opposed labor regulations designed to protect workers (and also seems to be a fan of gridlock, saying "the less Washington does, the better". Secretary of Education nominee Betty DeVos supports voucher programs that divert taxpayer money from public schools, has no idea or apparent decision on the decades long proficiency vs. growth debate with regard to assessment, and does not appear to believe in uniform enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Other nominees, such as Housing and Urban Development nominee Ben Carson, who has criticized regulations designed to combat segregation in housing projects, seem equally dangerous. (This op/ed piece in The Baltimore Sun outlines Carson's criticisms and the arguments against those criticisms.")

For me, the biggest danger of a Trump presidency may not be Trump himself but those who seem to blindly follow him. Many of them profess to be Christian, yet the man they support is no more Christian than a pine tree and possibly less so.

One comment I read this morning on Facebook is indicative of the support that concerns me. It read, "I thank God he chose this man to help save this country, and saved us from doom." After reading that, all I could think was a) God really does have a sense of humor (something I've long suspected since learning Jimmy Swaggart and Jerry Lee Lewis belonged to the same family tree), followed by b) God must really hate us, before concluding with c) we can't blame God for Trump. This is on us.

These same Christian Trumpeters seem to conveniently forget one of Christ's most important teachings, "love thy neighbor as thyself." Either that, or they are full of self-loathing.

To my mind, there is nothing inherently Christian about any of Trump's Cabinet nominees. "As you do unto the least of them, so you do unto me" seems to fly in the face of the positions these nominees have taken. The Catholic church teaches that we are supposed to be stewards of God's creation. Among other things, that seems to mean protecting the environment, not opening up federal lands to additional energy exploration.

The next four years promise to be divisive, confrontational, controversial, and contentious. They will, however, get off to a rousing start on Saturday with the Women's March on Washington and the affiliated marches in the individual states.

The battle lines appear to be drawn. They are not, however, drawn along the moral lines many religious people would have us believe, at least not in the way they think. The lines are moral, but they are drawn along the lines of right and wrong, as in what is right for all people, what is right for the environment, what is right for the children, what is right for all faiths, and what is right for the least of us.

Instead of fighting to "make America great again" (a slogan Trump took from Reagan, by the way), perhaps we should focus on keeping America great, part of which includes celebrating diversity, promoting fairness, working to help the elderly and the poor, ensuring all Americans have access to and receive affordable health care, and not providing additional wealth and tax breaks to those who already have the most.

If America is to be and to remain great, the majority of people must benefit, not just a handful at the top. Putting a billionaire in charge and appointing a handful of wealthy people as his advisers and Cabinet members does not seem the best way to ensure that the greatest number of people possible benefit.

Let the battle begin.