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Make Me Proud

Some of the things I’ve written lately have offended a few people.  They didn’t like things I said about Republicans in general and Donald Trump in particular.  This issue will be different.  It will probably piss off everyone.

The Fourth of July is coming up and Americans will be celebrating their Independence from Great Britain.  I’m sure that I will hear plenty of patriotic songs that week.  I might even play a few myself on my “Jedi” Saxophone.  Many of the songs will be about the pride people have in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

I consider myself lucky to have been born in the United States, but, even though I served 4 years in the military, I am not proud of this country.  The United States is a land of violent hypocrites, and it goes all the way back to the Founding Fathers (and actually even further back).

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, which contained the words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Thomas Jefferson owned over 600 human beings throughout the course of his life.

George Washington led the American army that won the War of Independence, and he became our first President.  He was uneasy with the institution of slavery and spoke frequently of his desire to end the practice.  However, at the time of George Washington’s death, he owned 317 slaves.

Seventeen of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention owned a total of about 1,400 slaves. Of the first 12 U.S. presidents, eight were slave owners.

Haiti (then Saint-Domingue) formally declared independence from France in 1804 and became the first sovereign nation in the Western Hemisphere to unconditionally abolish slavery.  Slavery was not abolished in the United States until more than 60 years later, January 31, 1865.  Even then, the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which aimed to abolish slavery, had a loophole that allowed slavery to remain legal.

Section I of the amendment reads:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

This “Exception Clause”, also known as the Punishment Clause, made it possible for slavery to be used as a method of punishment, allowing the government to legally subject people incarcerated all across the United States, from sea to shining sea, to be subject to forced labor.

The Prison Policy Initiative, a non-profit organization, estimated in 2016 that in the United States, about 2,298,300 people were incarcerated out of a population of 324.2 million. This means that 0.7% of the population was imprisoned.  This is not quite the land of the free.

In 2018, black Americans represented 33% of the sentenced prison population, nearly triple their 12% share of the U.S. adult population.  More than 150 years after slavery was supposed to be abolished, orange is the new slavery.

Forced labor in prisons is often built into “rehabilitation” or “educational” programs. Many who are incarcerated report being threatened with solitary confinement or longer sentences if they refuse to work. On top of this, incarcerated people are often paid little or nothing for their work, leaving them with almost no savings to help them re-enter society upon release, almost guaranteeing their return to prison.

Remember the almost two and a half million incarcerated Americans when you sing “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.” Lee Greenwood might not be singing that song if he wasn’t a white guy.

Besides America’s history of slavery, we also have a long history of being war mongers.  We love our wars and revere our warriors.  Twelve Presidents were Generals.

Listing our numerous wars, I won’t even count the Revolutionary War.  So, we’ll start with the War of 1812 (1812-1815).  I won’t count the many wars with Native Americans before the Revolution, but we do have to count the numerous Indian Wars between 1817 and 1898.  Then there’s the Mexican War (1846-1848).  Then, running out of other people to fight, we fought each other in the worst war in our history, the Civil War (1861-1865).  We went back to fighting the rest of the world with the Spanish-American War (1898-1902).  Then we graduated to World War I (1917-1918) and World War II (1941-1945).

World War II was the last time Congress officially declared war.   We did have the Korean War (1950-1953), but since 1945, the conflicts we’ve called “wars” have actually been congressional “authorizations of military force.”  John and Yoko Lennon said “War is over, if you want it.”  The United States says, War is over if we just rename it.

In 2013, the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) had special operations forces (SOFs) in 134 countries, where they were either involved in combat, special missions, or advising and training foreign forces.  Since Geography is no longer taught in American schools, I bet that most Americans can’t even name 134 countries.

Anyhow, we had Vietnam (1964-1975), that Invasion of Grenada (1983), Desert Shield, Desert Storm (1990-1991), and now the granddaddies of them all the Global War on Terror, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2001-probably forever).

We’ve even had a war against stupidity.  In 1929, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Buck v Bell came to an 8-1 decision that okayed the forced sterilization of stupid people, and other undesirables.  70,000 Americans were sterilized in the name of Eugenics, but, obviously, that didn’t end stupidity in this country.  Our little experiment in Eugenics may even have inspired Hitler.  Maybe that’s why his little plan to wipe out the Jews, didn’t instantly bring out our usual desire to get into another war.  We didn’t spring into action until an enemy with yellow skin showed up.  Then we showed them the rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air, two great big nuclear ones.

You’d think that all those wars would be enough bloodshed to satisfy even the most blood-thirsty people around, but no, when we Americans can’t find somebody else to kill, we just kill each other.

Mass shootings are incidents in which a shooter kills at least four victims. Using this definition, one study found that nearly one-third of the world’s public mass shootings between 1966 and 2012 (90 of 292 incidents) occurred in the United States.  Using a similar definition, The Washington Post reported 163 mass shootings in the United States between 1967 and June 2019.  If you ask someone if they heard about the latest mass shooting, they’ll probably ask you which one you’re talking about.  Lately, it seems that there have been a few every week, and you can’t tell your mass shootings without a scorecard.

As for your run-of-the-mill shootings, a total of 39,740 people were killed by firearms in 2018.  Some were suicides.  So, we don’t even stop with killing others.

All in all, it’s not really a history to instill pride.  If you want me to be proud of America, make me.  End discrimination.  Stop killing people.  Pass tough gun control laws.  Stop being the world’s #1 arms merchants, and work for peace.

Then maybe I’ll be able to sing along with you.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Humpty Trumpty

Humpty Trumpty promised a wall.

But Humpty Trumpty had a great fall.

He broke down completely and refused to admit,

That Biden won the election and Trumpty should quit.

Then while he was down and locked out of Twitter.

Cops seized what Rudy couldn’t flush down the shitter.

So, now we just wait as Grand Juries convene,

And we hope that Trumpty’s taxes will also be seen.

And Trumpty’s ties with Russia concern us, they do.

Will Putin put cameras in Joe’s bedroom, too?

Trump beat two impeachments, but he still wound up scarred.

Now, he hides out in Mar-A-Lago, the only place he’s not barred.

And, all the king’s horses and sycophantic friends.

Can’t put Humpty Trumpty together again.

They put back the hair, that was easy to do.

And only required a few tubes of glue.

The tiny hands were stapled to the end of his shirt,

And The Frankenstein they built, looked almost unhurt,

But the pressure of anatomy, pretty soon got ‘em,

And his Don’t Trust-Science friends F%^ked up his bottom.

They put his front, where his ass should be,

(An easy mistake, because he’s all ass to me.)

But, I still can’t figure out how the Trumpty fans missed it.

Surely, they knew his butt from all the times that they kissed it.

They painted him gold and gave him a wand.

A monument to all who had been by him conned.

Humpty’s brain was scrambled, but he still got down,

Before he left office and snuck out of town.

He gave Presidential pardons to all of his friends.

So, they could visit him in jail, when all of this ends.

Americans Pass Time

“The sun came out today.  We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field.”

I got back from a trip to New York in March of 2020, and I went into self-quarantine, as soon as I got back to Lancaster.  During this year, I only left my apartment when it was absolutely necessary, like when I ran out of liquor.  Even then, I always masked up and wore disposable gloves.  Shortly, after I got my second shot of the Covid vaccine, many of the government restrictions on masks and social distancing were lifted.  But, after a year of rarely ranging further than my front door, where the packages were dropped off by various delivery persons, I found myself not wanting to leave the house.

I went to the supermarket, for the first time in a year, last month.  Everyone was wearing a mask, and I was glad to comply with that minor inconvenience, to be able to pick up steaks, chickens, cheese, and other perishable things that online supermarkets don’t regularly deliver, things I haven’t had in a long time.  However, I haven’t been back to the supermarket since.  I make a shopping list now, but I just order what I can get online, instead of going.  It must have something to do with inertia.  An object in motion tends to stay in motion, while and object at rest tends to stay at rest, and I’ve been resting for over a year.  Like Morgan Freeman’s character, Red, in The Shawshank Redemption, I have become “institutionalized.”  I’ve been living in self-quarantine so long, that I’m used to it.  We feared social contact for so long that a mild form of Agoraphobia set in, not an extreme fear of the outside, just less interest in it.  All this was despite the months of yammering on about all the things I would do when restrictions were lifted.  Now that I could do what I wanted, I just didn’t feel like doing anything or going anywhere.

Most of the people I met in the past year were online.  All the courses I took this year were online.  I learned to play the e-sax and a few guitar chords from watching online videos.  No place to go, only meant no traffic to deal with, no buses to take, no rushing around.  Bars were closed, but liquor stores were open.  Medical Marijuana appeared on the scene, to ease my aching hip, even though I wasn’t walking anywhere.  The year 2020 could have inspired another Tale of Two Cities story from Charles Dickens.  I was the worst of times, but it had its moments.

But now, I’ve had both shots.  It’s time to shake off complacency, and get back to normal, normal.  To go outside.  To talk Face-to-face with people.  To be part of a cheering crowd.  …and The Lancaster Barnstormers came to the rescue.

Last week, the Barnstormers played their arch rival, the York Revolution, in a spring training game.  Admission was free, people, who had their shots, didn’t have to wear masks, and hot dogs were only a buck.  There was no excuse to sit around the house, any longer.  So, I finally got out of the house and spent 3 gloriously social hours at the ballpark.

It wasn’t very crowded, so social distancing wouldn’t have been a problem, but it wasn’t required.  The only change I noticed was that cash was no longer accepted.  Purchases had to be made using plastic.  It felt weird buying a $1 hot dog with a credit card.  So, I added some beers, every time, just so that some bank manager wouldn’t flag my purchase as unusual.

The score was 4-2 in favor of York, as they headed into the bottom of the 9th.  The Stormers put the tying runs on with only one out and the Blake Gailen came to the plate, representing the winning run.  He’s been on the club for ages, and he is the club’s all-time leading homerun hitter.  We held our collective breath as he swung.  A ground ball up the middle resulted in a double play.  Game over.  NB.  It still felt great just to get “out with the crowd.”

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Six Degrees of Covid 19

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There is a parlor game called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.  The idea is to connect one actor with another actor via movies they have been in and other actors who have appeared in those movies.  The game is named after Kevin Bacon, because he has been in so many movies with so many other actors that you should be able to link him to any actor within six moves.  For example, if I wanted to connect Kevin Bacon to Ricard Dreyfuss, I could start off, Kevin Bacon was in Footloose with John Lithgow.  John Lithgow was in the World According to Garp with Robin Williams.  Robin Williams was in Good Morning Vietnam with Forest Whitaker, and Forest Whitaker was in Mr. Holland’s opus with Richard Dreyfuss.  For over a year now scientists have been playing a version of this game called Six Degrees of Covid 19.

There are two basic things to think about in any disease, the contagion rate and the mortality rate.  The contagion rate is important to scientist who are trying to trace a source of an infection.  They will try to find out who was in contact with their patient.  So, they might find out that their patient shared an elevator ride with an infected person, who, in turn, picked up the infection by sharing a subway car with an infected person, who may have picked up the infection at a movie theatre, where they sat by an infected person.  The mortality rate is the percentage of people who die from the disease.  So, heart disease is not infectious.  You could spend all day in a cardiologist’s office and not have to worry about picking up heart disease.  However, the mortality rate may be high.  If you have heart disease, it could easily kill you.  The Common Cold, on the other hand, has a high contagion rate, but a low mortality rate.

So, let’s say that the Covid 19 virus has a contagion rate of 2.  That means that everyone who gets infected will probably spread it to two others.  So, you start with one, who infects two others, who infect 4 others, who infect 8 others, who infect 16 others, etc. until one day 130,341,697 people worldwide have been infected.  The good news is that the contagion rate can be controlled.  You are less likely to spread it to two people if you wear a mask and maintain social distancing.  Others are less likely to be infected if they wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and get immunized.  If you are infected by a disease with a contagion rate of 2, but half the population is inoculated against the disease, it is likely that you will only spread it to 1 other person.  If 85% of the population has been inoculated, then it is likely that an infected person will not spread the disease to anyone.  This is the meaning of “herd immunity.”  This is why wearing masks, social distancing, and inoculation are so very important in containing a pandemic.

Worldwide, the Covid 19 virus has killed 2,839,884 people, which is about 2% of those infected.  As better treatments become available, more people are surviving, but basically, for every 100 people who are infected today, 98 will show no symptoms or have mild symptoms from which they will recover with treatment.  However, for every 100 people who are infected, one will require intensive care to keep them alive, and one will definitely go to the cemetery.  Two percent of the people who are infected will face a life-threatening emergency.

A recent study published in Scientific American stated that 2% of Americans in a certain age range (I’m not telling which) believe that the Earth is not round but flat.  So, if I asked everyone in this age group a very easy question like, “What is the shape of the Earth?” a shocking 2% would get it wrong.  So, imagine if I said that I was going to ask you a very simple question, and if you got it right, I would give you a cookie, but if you got it wrong you would die.  Then I asked you a very simple question like, “What is the name of the President of the United States?”  Anyone who said Joe Biden would get a cookie.  Unfortunately, not everyone would wind up with a cookie, though.  Hard as it may be to believe, 2% would probably get this simple question wrong.  It is similar to Covid 19, except without the cookies.  If you are exposed to the virus, 98% of you will live, but 2% will die or wind up requiring life-saving medical intervention.  Do you want to take that bet?  Especially, when you don’t even have the possibility of winning a cookie.  Getting a Covid 19 vaccination won’t get you a cookie, but it will put you in the 98% group, and reduce the chances of you spreading the disease to others.

So, please wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and get vaccinated as soon as possible.  You certainly don’t want to be responsible for giving Covid 19 to Kevin Bacon.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Conspiracy Theory

I’ve been reading about conspiracy theories, and I find it’s a very hard subject to figure out.  The reason is because of the vast amount of misinformation that floods the Internet.  How can you tell what’s true, anymore?

Fox News Channel represents the Right, and MSNBC represents the Left.  So, you’re not going to get the straight truth from either of them.  I haven’t figured out who, if anybody, accurately represents the middle yet.  So, I look elsewhere for the truth, but I can’t find it.

Social media is definitely not the place to find the truth.  The posts on Facebook, seem to represent only far right or far left ideas.  There’s very little middle ground.  Yes, there are a few people who still post recipes and pictures of their cats, but most of the posts are political, and they are mostly extreme viewpoints.  Full disclosure – My own opinion almost always sides with the left.  So, when I hear the things that the far right Q Anon people believe, the first thought that comes to my head is that these people must be very stupid to believe such bullshit.

The second thought that comes to my head is that I know some of these people.  They are friends of mine, and they’re not stupid people.  So, why do they believe such utter nonsense, like stories about the Clintons and Obamas drinking baby’s blood in the back of a Washington D.C. pizzeria to keep them from aging.  Maybe Michelle Obama doesn’t look like she’s aging, but that’s because she’s into vegetables and exercise.  Have you seen the Clintons and Barrack Obama lately?  They’re aging.  The mysterious Q is just making stuff up and telling it to some very gullible people who believe it.  That’s it.  The people who believe these conspiracies aren’t necessarily stupid.  They are just gullible.  Actually, they might be both stupid and gullible, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, but my question is why are the rest so gullible?

I think that the answer is conditioning.  Americans have been programmed to be gullible since they were little, tiny children.  We all were told that if you’re a good child, Santa Claus will bring you presents for Christmas.  And you can’t fool Santa Claus.  He sees you when you’re sleeping.  He knows when you’re awake.  He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.  If you’re a good child, the Easter Bunny will bring you colored eggs and candy for Easter.  We found out quickly that you can fool him though.  He’s just a rabbit.  He brings eggs and candy treats to everyone, good or bad, unlike Santa who will bring you only coal if you are bad.

The gullibility conditioning goes on and on throughout childhood.  If you get out of bed at night, the boogieman will get you.  If you lose a tooth, you can put it under your pillow, and the Tooth Fairy will give you money for the tooth.  And when you’re too old to believe in Santa, or the Easter Bunny, or the Boogie Man, or the Tooth Fairy, parents play the ace they’ve had hidden up their sleeve.  They play the God card.  There is an invisible man in the sky who is so powerful that He made the entire universe in 6 days.  He’s keeping an eye on you, and you can’t hide from Him, because He sees everything.  He can even see through lead, something that even Superman can’t do.  If you’re good, He’ll take you to a magic place full of angels called Heaven.  If you’re bad, He’ll send you to an awful place full of devils called Hell.  And you can never grow out of that conditioning, like you grew out of believing in Santa.  God is a forever fantasy.  Even your parents still believe in Him.  He’s supposedly been around for eternity, and He’s supposedly everywhere, yet nobody’s ever seen Him.  He’s the gullibility jackpot, with an approval rating of about 85% in America.

So, we’re taught from childhood to have blind Faith, and to believe in things that don’t make any sense at all.  Santa drives flying reindeer and can visit every house on the planet in one single night.  A bunny knows how to weave baskets, dye eggs, and make delicious marshmallow peeps.  Boogie men are invisible, but they can still bite.  The Tooth Fairy know when every single kid on the planet loses a tooth, and can be at his house that night.  God created everyone and He loves everyone, but He also created things like cancer and Covid 19 to kill us, so don’t even try to figure Him out.  It’s all part of His glorious plan, which we can never understand, but we can make Him change the glorious plan for the Universe if we pray hard enough.

We’ve been brought up to believe a lot of utterly ridiculous nonsense.  So, it’s no wonder that 2% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 believe that the Earth is flat, not round.  When somebody with the penname Q says he saw the Clintons and the Obamas slurping down baby blood smoothies in a pizzeria in D.C., it’s no wonder that some people actually believe it.

This isn’t new.  My generation was sure that Paul McCartney died decades ago in a car crash, because he was the only one who was barefoot on the Abbey Road album cover.  We found our absolutely 100% convincing evidence by playing Beatles records backwards.  None of us were considered stupid, but we sure were very gullible, despite the fact that back then we did have a news source we could trust.  We had Walter Cronkite.

Be kind to the gullible, especially the young ones.  Just “pray” that they grow out of it.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Ode to Twenty-Twenty

A year ago, we rang in Twenty-twenty,

A year that brought us trouble a plenty.

It brought in with it the Covid-19 flu,

And we wound up in lockdown with nothing to do.

Trump said it was nothing, but Fauci was wiser.

So, we put on masks and used hand sanitizer.

We were all on our own, taking care of ourselves.

Purell, bleach, and toilet paper flew off the shelves.

Parents became teachers; schools closed in each town.

The only good news was school shootings were down.

There was a limit on the number of people allowed in a room.

To see friends and neighbors we had to use ZOOM.

It was months before we could go out to eat,

Even then, we all had to eat on the street.

Sporting events weren’t allowed to have fans.

Cardboard cutouts soon filled up the stands.

Tensions ran high; racial peace was shattered.

People turned to the streets to prove Black lives mattered.

There were protests, and riots, and looting, and more.

While we wore out a path to our hard liquor store.

Trump couldn’t believe his re-election would fail.

Until Biden surprised him with a flood of snail mail.

But Trump wouldn’t concede.  He made legal noise,

With Rudy Guilianni, and the help of Proud Boys.

Soon people cared less, which one was elected,

When a vaccine for Covid, was finally perfected.

So, as the new year begins, we’ll all raise glasses,

And tell Twenty-twenty to kiss all our asses.

Happy New Year to Everyone.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

The Continental Divide

Continental Divide

Back when I went to school more than a half century ago, we learned that the Continental Divide is the principle hydrological divide of the Americas.  In plain English, that meant that the U.S. waterways west of the Divide basically flowed into the Pacific Ocean or the Bering Sea.  The U.S. waterways east of the Divide basically flowed into the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico.

Today, the Continental Divide is a question.  It is not a geography question.  Today, the Continental Divide is a social question.  Do Black lives matter?  The United States was formed by rich white folk, for rich white folk, so, the simple answer to the question is “No”.  Unless you like to listen to music.

If you like music, then Black lives do matter.  From Jazz to Motown to Hip Hop, Black Americans were the backbone of American music.  Where would our music be without, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis, Jr., Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Chuck Berry, Michael Jackson, Prince, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Whitney Houston, Thelonious Monk, Jay-Z, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Eubie Blake, Wynton Marsalis, George Clinton, Muddy Waters, Isaac Hayes, Erykah Badu, Otis Redding, Lauryn Hill, Count Basie, The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Ma Rainey, Mariah Carey, Robert Johnson, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Ben E. King, the Drifters, the Coasters, Jelly Roll Morton, Tina Turner, Charlie Parker, Nina Simone, Bessie Smith, Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Little Richard, Kendrick Lamar, and Marian Anderson, to name just a few American black musicians?

Maybe you don’t listen to music.  So, then Black lives don’t matter, unless you like comedy.

If you like comedy, then Black lives do matter.  Where would our American comedy be without Chris Rock, Richard Pryor, Dave Chappelle, Bernie Mac, Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer, Redd Foxx, Bill Cosby, Katt Williams, Tracy Morgan, Chris Tucker, Mike Epps, Arsenio Hall, Leslie Jones, Eddie Griffin, Mo’ Nique, Moms Mabley, Charlie Murphy, Marlon Wayans, DeRay Davis, Patrice O’Neal, Sherly Underwood, Michael Che, Bruce Bruce, David Alan Grier, Lavell Crawford, Paul Mooney, Flip Wilson, Jamie Foxx, Sinbad, Tom Davidson, Tyler Perry, Aries Spears, Sommore, Nipsey Russell, Luenell, Jay Pharoah, Shawn Wayans, Whoopi Goldberg, Dick Gregory, Wanda Sykes, D. L. Hughley, Robin Harris, Tiffany Haddish, Bill Bellamy, Deon Cole, Keenan Ivory Wayans, John Witherspoon, Robert Townsend, and Hannibal Buress, to name just a few American black comedians?

Maybe you don’t like music or comedy.  Then Black lives don’t matter, unless you like sports.

If you like sports, then Black lives do matter.  Where would our American sports be without Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Muhammed Ali, Jesse Owens, Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe, Wilma Rudolph, Bill Russell, Jack Johnson, Tiger Woods, Jim Brown, LeBron James, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Kobe Bryant, Tommie Smith, Hank Aaron, Magic Johnson, John Carlos, Florence Griffith Joyner, Joe Louis, Gabby Douglas, Venus Williams, Willie Mays, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Simone Biles, Alice Coachman, George Foreman, Wilt Chamberlain, Walter Payton, Barry Bonds, Colin Kaepernick, Jerry Rice, Barry Sanders, Carl Lewis, Fritz Pollard, Cheryl Miller, Lisa Leslie, Sonny Liston, Bo Jackson, Charles Barkley, Satchel Paige, Mike Tyson, Michael Johnson, Joe Frazier, Emmitt Smith, Curt Flood, Sugar Ray Robinson, Charlie Sifford, Ernie Davis, and Tony Dungy, to name just a few American black athletes?

Maybe you don’t listen to music, or like to laugh, or enjoy any sports besides ice hockey and Curling.  Then, Black lives don’t matter, unless you like movies.

If you like movies, then Black lives do matter.  Where would American movies be without Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Sidney Poitier, Samuel L. Jackson, Morgan Freeman, Will Smith, Cuba Gooding, Jr., James Earl Jones, Danny Glover, Laurence Fishburne, Ossie Davis, Terrence Howard, Louis Gossett, Jr. Richard Pryor, Wesley Snipes, Billy Dee Williams, Jamie Foxx, Michael Clarke Duncan, and that’s just a few of the male American black actors?  Black America also gave us Halle Berry, Angela Bassett, Viola Davis, Kerry Washington, Diahann Carroll, Dorothy Dandridge, Taraji P. Henson, Regina King, and, of course, Oprah Winfrey, Cicely Tyson, Octavia Spencer, Queen Latifah, Phylicia Rashad, Lena Horne, Jennifer Hudson, Hattie McDaniel, and Whoopi Goldberg to name just a few American black actresses.

Maybe you don’t listen to music, or like to laugh, or watch sports or movies.  Maybe you are just an asshole who doesn’t like anything.  If you’re an asshole, who doesn’t like anything, then Black lives don’t matter, unless you like money.

If you like money, then Black lives do matter.  Where would the American economy be today without the millions of slaves who worked hard to build the economy of this young country, even though they personally didn’t get a share of it.

Where is the Continental Divide?  It used to run through places like Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho.  Now, it runs through the minds of Americans.  It is the separation between those who realize that it took a lot of Americans from a lot of different backgrounds centuries to make this country great, and those who think that our greatness was built in the last three years by some guys wearing red hats.

Black lives matter.  White lives matter.  Yellow lives matter.  Brown lives matter.  Red lives matter.  One Orange guy, well, his life matters, too, until November.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

 

 

 

The Sounds of Silence

Naturally, I’m a big fan of writing, but some of my favorite writing is not designed to be read in a quiet well-lit room.  It is meant to be spoken aloud.  I like listening to speeches.  They’re not always the work of one person.  Some are, but most require the combined efforts of many speech writers, and this collaboration only helps to make them better.

When we remember famous people, we often link them to their most famous speeches.  Think of Martin Luther King, Jr. and you will recall his “I have a dream” speech.  Think of John Kennedy and you may recall the words from his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your country.”  Think of Jesus, and the word of the Sermon on the Mount might spring into your memory.  “Do unto others, as you will have them do unto you.”  That was a classic speech.

Abraham Lincoln is linked to a classic speech of his own, his “Four score and seven years ago” Gettysburg Address.  That’s probably one of the rare speeches that many people have memorized in its entirety.

Some memorable moments from famous speeches turned into moments that the speakers would probably wish we would forget.  George H.W. Bush was haunted by his “Read my lips.  No new taxes” speech.  Bill Clinton gave many great speeches, but the line he spoke that most of us remember is “I did not have sex with that woman.”  Richard Nixon is linked to the ironic phrase from his “Checkers” speech, “I am not a crook.”

Some great speeches were delivered by actors, and I don’t just mean the speeches of Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  I’m talking about actors in movies.  Michael Douglas in The American President, letting Sen. Bob Rumson know that “this is a time for serious people and your 15 minutes are up.”  Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday encouraging his team to “fight for every inch,” and the future “Senator” Blutarsky mobilizing his frat brothers with his stirring oratory, “Nothing is over until we decide it is.  Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

Bluto's speech

I like speeches and this month I am getting plenty.  We have both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions providing dozens of them.  I don’t always agree with the speakers, but I enjoy watching them try to build their cases.  Normally, the speeches at a convention take 3-4 times longer than they should.  Every sentence is punctuated with phony “spontaneous” applause and cheering.  This year is different.  The virtual conventions are providing noise-free speeches.  Nobody is hooting, hollering, waving a sign, or releasing red, white, and blue balloons during the speeches.  There are no interruptions for incessant cheering.  All we get is the message.  We can agree or disagree, but, this year, we are getting the words without all the noise, the thin silver lining in the big dark Covid cloud.

You can now go to YouTube and listen to all the convention speeches in just minutes instead of days.  You can find the message that resonates with you, and, like Simon and Garfunkle, visions can be planted in your brain, within the sounds of silence.  Then all you have to do is vote, and that is how you can make your own speech and let your voice be heard.

 

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

 

 

Stranger in Paradise

Stranger in Paradise

Since mid-March, I’ve been spending a lot of time at home.  Haven’t we all?  One of the things I’ve been doing to prevent “cabin fever” is spending time in my backyard, and, there, I’ve been accompanied by my music.

When I was a little asthmatic boy, the doctors suggested to my parents that I should play a wind instrument.  I chose the clarinet, because it was light and easy to carry.  I took lessons for years, but pretty much wasted the money my parents were paying for those lessons.  I never really got any good at playing the clarinet, and I never showed any signs that I would ever get better at it.  However, my lungs were getting stronger, and I was getting bigger and healthier.  The clarinet seemed to have had its day with Benny Goodman, though, and I was tired of it.  So, I asked my parents for a saxophone.  The saxophone was one of the popular instruments in Rock ‘N’ Roll.  The other was the guitar, but I had no aptitude for that instrument.  At least the saxophone was something like the clarinet.  Much to the annoyance of my neighbors who had to listen to me practice, my parents bought me the bigger, louder instrument.

Of course, I wanted to be in a Rock ‘N’ Roll band, and, so, I joined one.  Since none of the other band members wanted to sing, and there were only a handful of instrumentals, the job of lead singer became mine.  They let me play my saxophone on two songs, Tequila by the Champs and Summertime, from the musical Porgy and Bess.  I wasn’t very good at those two songs, but it didn’t matter since we rarely played them in public.

Then I joined the Navy and as soon as I got to boot camp, I auditioned for the Boot Camp band.  They really weren’t that picky, so I got in.  They really weren’t planning ahead too well, either, when they accepted about a dozen saxophone players for a marching band that only really needed about four.  So, I was in the band, but I never played a note.  That didn’t matter to me though, the important thing was that I wound up in a company composed of musicians, and other “special” people.  We had guys on the precision drill team, and other people of dubious special talent, who were not in the service for our ability to lay waste the enemy.  For us it was Boot Camp Lite.  Every time our company was scheduled for the obstacle course, I told our Drill Instructor, Gunner’s Mate Chief Jordan, that I had band practice.  I never once had to go on the infamous obstacle course.

After that, I didn’t play an instrument for 45 years.  Then I moved to Lancaster and decided to give it another try.  I bought a clarinet and saxophone, but they sat in the closet until Covid-19 hit.  During the first few months of isolation, I started to play both instruments, and for a laugh I posted songs on Facebook.  It didn’t take me long to reach the same level of mediocrity that I had attained as a child, but, this time, it was fun.  And now we have YouTube.  There were dozens of videos available to teach me the things that poor Don Felice Alfino struggled in vain to teach me as a child. I can now play 7 notes on the saxophone that I didn’t even know existed back then.  I found “back-up” tracks on the Internet that allow me to play along with other musicians.  The “Music Minus One” orchestra contains every instrument but the saxophone.  So, theoretically, the orchestra is complete when I play along.  Theoretically, that is.  They usually finish a song when I am about 3/4s of the way through it.  It’s going to take some time for me to actually be able to play with them, but time seems to be the one thing we all have plenty of.

I may not sound too good yet, but I bought a couple different background cloths that, at least, make me look good, and as Billy Crystal would say, it’s better to look mah-vel-ous than to actually be mah-vel-ous.

 

Billy Crystal
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — Episode 17 — Pictured: Billy Crystal as Fernando Lamas during “Fernando’s Hideaway” skit on April 13, 1985 — Photo by: R.M. Lewis Jr./NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

 

Product Placement

We’ve gotten used to seeing Product Placement in the movies and on TV.  There was even a movie that was totally financed by products strategically placed in the movie.

Greatest Movie Ever Sold

But now this trend seems to be spreading to the oval office.

We’re building the wall, and Goya is paying for it.

But, Americans should know that Product Placement in the Oval Office is nothing new.  Presidents have been using their Office to shill for many products over the years.

Bush - Texas chainsawClintons - Magic ShopGeorge Washington - DentistryJimmy Carter - Billy BeerLincoln - HaberdasheryObamas - Fake IDRon and Nancy Reagan - ClairolTeddy Roosevelt - Rough Rider CondomsThomas Jefferson - Slave Auctions

And now even Presidential hopefuls are getting in on the action.

Joe Biden with Mask

Do you keep accidentally sticking your foot in your mouth?

Then, do what I do.  Wear a Johnson & Johnson Mask.

So, America, don’t be worried by recent product placements in the Oval Office.  It takes a lot of money to fund a Presidential campaign, and corporations are just trying to help us out.

Buy America.  Uh, I meant, Buy American.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl