Thursday, December 20, 2012

On music, memory and a massacre

The other night, we took a family trip to the middle school, to see our son play in the middle school band concert. It was in the gym. It was crowded. It was lovely. I've learned that one of my absolute favorite activities of adulthood is to see school performances of any kind; there is something eternally endearing about watching young children perform in front of a crowd of parents.

Last night, at our concert, the students played beautifully. They played Ode to Joy; Joyeux Noel, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, a Hanukkah Song and many, many more tunes. Yes, there were squeaky notes. Yes, there were some off-kilter renditions of classic holiday tunes. Yes, there were, on occasion, very young and very bored young siblings cantering up and down the gym floor in front of the band. But each musician was so intent on the performance; each musician had practiced diligently prior to the concert; each musician did his or her best last night. It was indeed a lovely night.

Each class had its own band; the concert started with the 6th graders and moved up to the 8th grade jazz band. Each class showed progressive improvement; when you compared the 6th graders, who are new to the band, with the 8th graders, you could hear the value of the experience a year or two brings.

But as I sat there, waiting for the concert to begin, I found myself looking at the door of the gym. Waiting for the black-clad angry white youth to show up, pull out a semi-automatic rifle and spray the room with bullets. I was angry with myself for expecting this, but really, quite frankly, it seems appropriate now to expect the appearance of an angry white male armed to the hilt, eager to take out any number of people as an expression of his rage. This year alone, angry white men have made their feelings of rage known at far too many places, which include a movie theater, a house of worship, a high school cafeteria, a coffee shop, and now, of course, at an elementary school in Newtown, CT.

The Newtown shooter killed 26 people in 10 minutes. Ten minutes. 600 seconds. A sixth of an hour. Not much time at all. 20 first graders were slaughtered in 10 minutes. A principal and five teachers. I am haunted by this statistic.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The ultimate failure of vision

Against what (at times) seemed to be insurmountable odds, Americans have re-elected a black man presiding over a bitterly divided America still wallowing in a sludge-filled economic trough.

How did this happen?

A miracle? God's will? What happens when white men became minorities in America?  


Sunday, September 2, 2012

On the dangerous deceptions revealed in Tampa...

It was a convention that began in turmoil, disrupted as it was, by an act of God named Isaac. An association with a hurricane was likely not what the Republicans were looking for. There were too many voices from the GOP base pointing the finger of blame at godless NOLA after Katrina hit.

GOP president, GW Bush, was on vacation when Katrina hit. (He loved his vacations! Oh God how GW Bush loved his vacations!) When the President finally showed up to see the devastation wrought by Katrina, he assured the nation that Brownie was doing one "heck of a job," leaving much of the nation outside of his administration scratching their heads about his ability to process critical information about the worst national disaster to hit our shores.

So beginning the 2012 Republican National Convention under the gloomy God-forsaken, storm-tossed skies brought by Hurricane Isaac was off-script indeed.

(Making some wonder, what, exactly, was God trying to say to the GOP by sending Isaac their way as their moment in the sun was to begin? )

It was a convention that brought many vivid moments...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Oh ye of little faith! The apocalypse is nigh!

And it's not because Walker won in Wisconsin.

No, clearly we're approaching the end of the world as we know it* because Clint Eastwood has decided to share his wife and daughters with the world via reality TV.  Says the NY Daily News:

"Ultimately, [Dina] Eastwood says, the family drama is a TV version of comfort food, 'like the macaroni and cheese of reality TV.'" 
This is not making my day. I just don't want to admit the anti-hero of the spaghetti western is now serving up mac & cheese.

*One of my favorite songs. Know some Knox people who like the line about their college. Here's a link to the video:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

WTF WI?!!!

Judgment day has arrived in America's Dairyland. At the end of the day, will Scott Walker still be governor?

That Wisconsin is in such turmoil is a bit of a surprise to me. I grew up on the northern edge of Illinois - as teens, my friends and I would drive into Wisconsin for fun. So my early memories of the state are of a gentle playground: enjoying Milwaukee Summerfest, going to Alpine Valley for concerts; skiing down the Wilmot "Mountain" (a bunny slope from start to finish), strawberry picking, swim meets, catching my first Blue Gill at Lake Geneva (at 5 years old) using a bamboo pole, more intense fishing up in the Great North Woods. As a parent, I brought my children up to Door County for some camping on Rock Island, a great place to get off the grid for a week.

Today, Wisconsin is the scene of some of the most turbulent politics in America. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says:
"Voters will have to decide whether to support Gov. Scott Walker or to dump him from office after less than a year and a half in favor of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the candidate they rejected for the job in 2010. On jobs, taxes, education, health care and unions, the candidates are already marking out positions that differ sharply."
Walker's got the money (an article in Mother Jones lists him as having raised $30.5 million vs Tom Barrett's $3.9 million.) Will that kind of money be the differentiating factor? (Go to this story in MoJo for info on who's trying to buy this win - and note that Walker's support comes predominantly from out-of-state funders.)

This is an election where every vote will matter; where democracy in action will determine the course of a state - and perhaps even the course of a nation.Will out-of-state contributions be the deciding factor? Stay tuned....

For more stories, check out these links:

Saturday, June 2, 2012

How the "lessons of the Banana Man" fail to include the most important lesson of all...

The Wall Street Journal has a laudatory story providing "five lessons to be learned from the Banana Man." Samuel Zemurray, the Banana Man, is the typical American success story. Born in 1877, Zemurray was a Russian immigrant who in the later years of the 19th century "recognized his opportunity" in a pile of freckled yellow fruit. Little more than 100 years ago, the banana was an exotic fruit, known by few, and Zemurray was instrumental in widening its appeal and reach to consumers.

To do so, Zemurray, in 1932, took over United Fruit, a huge multinational company that was struggling during the Great Depression. He turned the company around and "by the time he died in 1961, in the grandest house in New Orleans, he had been a hauler and a cowboy, a farmer, a trader, a political battler, a revolutionary, a philanthropist and a CEO."

What a life!

And here, from the WSJ, here are the top five lessons of the Banana Man - but as you read them, please note that they leave out the most important lesson of all:

Friday, January 6, 2012

After all these years, green shoots at last?!!

WSJ covers the emerging green shoots of the economy - the unemployment rate is dropping, as are the new claims for unemployment.

Kinda looking like THIS drop in unemployment is for real, not just the "fuzzy math" that comes by not counting people who've given up all hope of ever getting a job.

Can it be that years after Ben Bernanke so optimistically groomed us for "green shoots," they're finally popping up at last?! Well, according to the WSJ, the Fed's not doing a jig just yet:
"The Federal Reserve, charged with maintaining stable prices and maximum employment, has remained cautious."
Strange to see such caution from an organization that proclaimed the arrival of [the false] spring back in March 2009...

A "tweaker's" guide to real genius....

Am reading Isaacson's bio of Jobs right now - it's one of those great, can't-put-down kind of reads, a fascinating glimpse into the life of a man whose inventions literally changed our lives.

Concurrently, I've just read Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker review of the bio. And feel his characterization of Jobs as a "tweaker" is about as far off base as one could be.

To prove his point, Gladwell takes us to England at the dawn of the Industrial Age, pondering why England proved to be the center of innovation at that time: