Friday, December 15, 2017

Holiday Spectacular 2017

It is once again time for my holiday spectacular. Seems like it happens every year. My self-imposed rules are that I can't decide what to write about until I start writing and let it just happen. Also, it has to be 

The New Miss Malaprop entries of the year:

Usually I do these under their own title, but, I felt like putting them here this year. The New Miss Malaprop is the pseudonym for my evalovin' girlfriend of 27 years, aka, my "25 to life sentence," "the warden," my "ball and chainsaw," my "insignificant other" (which, she co-opted from me) and my "girlfuhrer." She has a tendency to say interesting things, not on purpose, where she mixes metaphors and names with spectacular results. It is its own kind of unconscious genius and is my favorite thing about her.

Here's my best from this year along with seasonal photos, just because:

We were in San Antonio, home of the world famous Alamo, which is now a ruin. Our hotel was literally across the street from it. We were walking past it, stopped in to check about a tour she wanted to take for the conference she was running (why she was down there). We passed by a sign for Crockett Street, not surprisingly, right next to the Alamo.

Miss Malaprop: That's Crockett Street.
David: Do you know who that's named for?
MM: Jiminy Crockett?
D: No, no, no - you can't possibly think that's right.
MM: Who then?
D: I can't. I just can't.

Later that day, after she took the Alamo tour –

D: Do you know who Crockett is now?
MM: Yes. Davey Crockett. He died at the Alamo.
D: With?
MM: Travis and Bowie.
D: Do you know what Bowie invented?
MM: Oh, I know this – some kind of weapon.
D: The bow. . . .
MM: Bow and arrow?
D: Yes. Exactly. He must have been really old.

It was once pointed out to me by my friend, Mike, that these conversations almost all have the same pattern. He was right, but they are also all somewhat different.  

Recently, driving, we were discussing someone who had ignored her:

MM: "What am I? Chopped Wood?"

See what she did there? This is what I mean by unconscious genius. You can say, "What am I, wood?" or "What am I, chopped liver?" And, you definitely can chop wood. But, there's no expression, "What am I, chopped wood?" Until now.

Then there was the time she told me her boss's son was going to "Satan Hall College." It's not really in Hell, unless that's what you think of New Jersey.

About her friend, who was having a drink - "She’s unwhining." I would think that would actually apply to when she was done whining. 

Good thing I write these down as fast as I can, because otherwise I forget. I would have forgotten this one-

On May 22, 2017 a terrorist attack occurred at a pop rock concert in England during the Ariana Grande concert.

D: "Did you see that someone set off a bomb at an Ariana Grande concert in Britain?”
MM: “Well no one likes her.”
D: “I’m sure that’s why they did it.”


Here's one that makes some kind of sense to me, though completely wrong: "I worked like an ass all day." (yes, instead of - "I worked my ass off all day").

The following one, I just don't know what to say about it. We were driving, as we are when many of these come out, because that's when we are captive audiences and, if she's not texting or on facebook, we talk:

D: Why are you pushing the ABC button on the radio?
MM: Those are your four choices of stations.
D: Four? You count four there?
MM: Sure. A is 1, B 2, C - oh, three.

Seriously, how hard is it to count to three? On the same ride:

MM: How big was your wife’s engagement ring? (1977).
D: I think point 67 carats?
MM: It was less than half a carat?
D: Really?
MM: More than a carat?
D: How did you get through life without knowing decimals?
MM: Oh, more than half a carat then.
D: Well, that’s the last choice, so yeah.

Obviously, math is a specialty. That's it. There will be more. It's one reason we can't break up.


Book and Talk of the year.

If you've read my blog just a few times and don't get that I'm an obsessive reader, you probably have a reading comprehension problem. It is my favorite activity that you can talk about in public.

Some years though I have trouble finding a book I really love. This year there was a hand's down favorite, a new biography of Henry David Thoreau by Laura Dassow Walls. I've written about Thoreau many times here* and I'd probably say that he is my all-time favorite non-fiction writer. I actually went to hear the author speak at the J. P. Morgan Museum and Library in NYC, where some Thoreau materials are kept. That was one of my personal highlights of the year too.

*One of the most viewed posts I ever wrote (no. 3, according to Google) is Death Match: Socrates v. Thoreau – 3/28/10, but others about him include Thoreau meets me - 7/31/08, Thoreau and the test of innocence – 10/26/13 and Thoreau – The end of innocence – 1/28/14. 

I went by myself, mostly because I don't know anyone, who lives near me at least, who would want to go to something like that. Also, I rarely get to discuss Thoreau with anyone, and thought there was a small chance of it. And other than occasionally a few friends and family on the phone - some of whom are among the few people in the world who actually read this stuff, I rarely talk about anything even mildly intellectual. Who does? Even when I am speaking with friends who like the same type of things I do it is very easy to get lost in the entertainment world or football. I think that's why I was so excited listening to her talk about Thoreau that I would say I was in a state of elation.

I had been waiting all of my life for a great biography of someone I thought was the best pure prose writer in America's history. I've read quite a few books about him and they range from boring to okay. After listening to Ms. Walls speak, I bought a copy of the book and got on the line to have her sign it. Once in a blue moon I will buy a book to get it signed for someone else, but I have never, if I recall correctly, done it for myself. I just wanted to talk to her about Thoreau for at least a minute. I stood on line about a half hour reading as I approached the front of the line and became increasingly excited as I got nearer. The opening chapter was wonderful. As I stood though, I noticed that there was a nerdy looking watcher/bodyguard of sorts, who wouldn't let anyone talk with her for more than a few minutes. So, I started to think of how to cram in what I wanted to say as I approached. I was almost the last person and I was sure she must also have been exhausted.

When I got to the front of the line I started talking. I gave some thought to the fact that she was the expert and should really talk to us, but I didn't observe that happening with other people that much. Plus, what would she say? She had already given her talk and she couldn't have anything personal to say to us. In any event, she was very gracious and listened intently to me as she had the others. I told her that my mother had named me David Henry after Thoreau (it was the order of his real name - although technically, I was also named after my Aunt Henrietta) and I told her, summing up in a couple of sentences, something I had realized about a sentence he had written which showed me how deep his scholarship was. She responded to that point herself. I also told her how I had waited for her book my whole life (okay - my adult life, but you really don't have a lot of time up there) and she gave me a puzzled look. I probably blurted out a few other things about my admiration for him too at high speed and felt very emotional. Actually, I felt that way since I got there. I don't live in academia and it was all of a sudden, intellectual stimulation. One of the reasons I write this stupid blog for 11 years now is to occasionally talk about the things that really interest me. I'm not sure my excitement didn't creep through too much (Ms. Walls, if I creeped you out - I apologize - I was just so happy to be there).

I read the book in a few days. It was as good as it seemed to me at first blush. For many people who even know who Thoreau was, and think of him as a guy who lived by a pond, that was two years of his life.  Thoreau's time on earth was very full, exciting and though certainly too short for the rest of us, yet so filled with life it was as if he lived several years. Moreover, though it has become a fixture of the story of his life that he never traveled much, and that is true compared to many then famous people, he probably traveled much more than most of his neighbors - if not very far - and I suspect they saw him as an adventurer of sorts. He did go to Canada, Maine, Minnesota, lived briefly in New York City and walked everywhere he wanted in Massachusetts.

Because I have read so much about him, I did not expect to learn much. Though no event covered was quite new to me, I did learn quite a bit, mostly about his college life at Harvard, his family and also how involved they and he were in abolition - including taking part in transporting escaped slaves, his scientific work, his interest in and writings about Indians (though I presume filled with misinformation), much about his many friends and acquaintances and also about Concord itself.

I don't know if I can recommend it to anyone who doesn't love Thoreau already - you should read Walden and Civil Disobedience first, although Life without Principle is my favorite of his works, but I celebrate him, this book and Ms. Walls here in this Holiday Spectacular.

Top ten most memorable hikes:

Holiday spectaculars are made for top ten lists. I've done quite a few lists over the years and honestly, I don't remember most of them. If I repeat any, so be it, and it is likely my order has changed.

This one is autobiographical. I am also going to New Zealand next year and I suspect this list will need to be updated. I do not count plain sightseeing as a hike unless I walked at least an hour and tromping around cities don't count, even though I'm not sure why. Has to be in nature.

1. The Grand Canyon. I went down only a little bit on account of the three little kids with us and walked as far as I could manage around the rim. I watched at dawn and dusk in front of our cabin, the oldest one still standing there, sitting on the ledge. It may be the most beautiful place I've ever been.

2. Apple Orchard Falls. The trailhead was about 20 minutes by car from where I lived in Virginia.
It was a roughly 2 hours walk up at my snail's pace. I met very few people in my town who ever went up it (just as I, a Long Islander, have never been to the Statue of Liberty). It was a beautiful, stream edged, forest covered walk, although tiring, and it ends at a waterfall much smaller, but higher than Niagara. You can sit on a deck admiring it as it roars beneath you on its way down. In the approximate 4 1/2 years I lived there, I probably hiked it 30 or 40 times. Oddly, I don't really like my photographs of it all that much. But, I do my photos of the trail on the way up and down. Here's one:

3.  Big Basin Redwoods State Park. - I was in my twenties when I spent 4 days with my friend Peter and his hiking club among the redwoods. Let's just say they were much more experienced and prepared for a four day hike than I was. But, it was a great experience despite the blisters, rashes and other pains (including Peter - I'm pretty sure it was the only argument we ever had in the 47 years I know him, though it didn't last long. He was amazed at how little I knew about camping and I had it up to here with his condescension about it). There are a number of redwood forests and I had to write Peter and ask him the name.

4. Cinque Terre. My evalovin' girlfriend and I went to Italy in I believe 1997 with another couple. It was an awesome trip. We stayed one day/night at Cinque Terre, literally "five towns," which at that time were not connected by roads, but only by train and long hiking trails between the villages, which were very rural themselves. Some had no flush toilets. We hiked between two of the villages on little trails. At one point it was probably two feet wide along a cliff side and at some spots it would have been easy to fall down a much too steep tree filled slope. ("Certainty of death. Small chance of success. What are we waiting for?"*) I'm sure I have pictures somewhere, but not digitalized.

*Give yourself a point if you know which character said that.

5. Piscia di GalloCorsica. Spent two weeks in Corsica with my 25 to life sentence. It is one of my favorite European trips. I even loved the food, French-Italian, which is rare for me. Though she had just broken a foot a week or so before, she's kind of a phenom physically and heals from injuries, including breaks, like a mutant. We climbed up 2 hours through beautiful woods on a rock-strewn path, to come out at a stunning waterfall where a couple of much more physically gifted people than we were, were climbing. As usual, she was much better than me going uphill, but terrified coming down - which is just funny to see.

6. Cascades National Recreational Trail.  About an hour and a half from where I lived in Virginia; there is, literally, an award winning trail, set out there by nature but partially designed by man. Every turn is beautiful and then you come out at a big waterfall that the adventurous can walk or swim right up to (although, the water is friggin' cold). One time I went at dawn so I could be sure to swim by myself. It was an incredible experience to be alone in a pool at the base of a roaring waterfall in the midst of dramatic scenery - but did I say it was cold? Jeeeeesus! Unless you take cold showers in the winter, you have no idea.

7. Mount Marcy - I believe I was 19 when I made this trip also with the very same Peter, who has hiked all over the country. Marcy is the highest peak in New York. At 5343 feet, it is also the highest mountain I have ever climbed. Peter had failed to climb it on two previous attempts when his family members broke down. I was young and healthy, still had tons of endurance despite my sleeplessness and it was about 6-7 years prior to my left leg going blooey. I didn't think I'd have any problems going to the top. Wrong. The first day ended at a beautiful brook, where there were some open lean-tos to sleep in. A couple of Canadians joined us. Unfortunately for me, I was about as unprepared equipment-wise as you can be. It was September and while it was warm enough at the base, it snowed where we slept. While Peter slept the night through in his winter bag, I rubbed my legs all night in my Spring bag, listening to the Canadians snore. It was really rough. Zero sleep was not going to work, especially during a two day hike. When Peter woke and made breakfast, I crawled into his warm bag and slept a few minutes. I tried on my clothes to find that they were frozen stiff and I could not lower my arms because the sleeves were frozen stiff. I told a disappointed Peter that I was sorry, but I had to go back down. He led and I followed. After a half hour I said, "Peter, are you sure we are going the right way to get down." He explained we had to go up a bit to find the trail down. Well, I was sleepy, so it sort of made sense. Another half hour later I screamed - "Goddamn it, you are taking me up, you bastard!" Yup. He just decided he wasn't going to fail again. But, by then I was awake and loving it. We got to the top, clawed our way up the last icy peak yards and somehow got back down that slab of ice alive (the incredible stupidity of us and other people doing this now astounds me as an old guy). A black and white photograph of me at the bottom, alive but disheveled, is my insignificant other's favorite picture of me and might be the only picture of me I've ever displayed here.

Sleeplessness aside, or maybe partially because of it, it was a great trip.

8. Austria. I drove to a glacier (I don't remember the name) and just started walking - in the snow. It was summer and I wasn't dressed warm, so I was more than a little cold. And no one else was there, though there were skiing facilities, so it was a solitary long and freezing walk in spectacular scenery. Oh, also, I either didn't remember to bring my camera or can't remember where I put the pictures. Actually, I have the vaguest memory of a photograph somewhere in my unsorted boxes somewhere but, if it exists and I recall it at all, I think it was mostly white. This was far from my longest hike due to the temperature and my summer attire, but I did the best I could and what I saw was wonderful.

9. Ireland - The Great Cow Battle of 2003. 2003, also the year of the great power outage in the northeast of the U.S.  I learned about it from my 16 year old daughter, who I had left in charge of the house, when I called home. But, in the future 2003 should be known as the year of the Great Cow Battle. Ireland was another wonderful trip, although I was literally sick with the worst cold I have ever had (it also lasted for all 2 weeks while I was there and then another 2 1/2 weeks after I got home). Ireland is so pretty even being sick couldn't ruin it. One day we were in County Kerry (you know, it could have been Dingle - I'm not sure now), on the West Coast of the island. We were staying at an inn on a farm. I decided I'd like to take a walk down to the water. The innkeeper told me where to go. I had to walk until I got to the gate, open it, go in and just keep walking straight until I hit water. Sounds easy. She said there were cows in there, but don't worry about them, she said, because they are more afraid of you than you are of them. Okay, I said, and away I went. The scenery, even the view from the shore there wasn't that memorable, but the hike was.

After I got through the gate, I started walking. I noticed a herd of cows in the distance. They noticed me and started walking in my direction. You wouldn't think so, but cows can walk faster than people. They got closer and closer even though I walked faster and faster. Finally, I got to a small rise, and turned around. I kept walking faster and faster still as they followed me - what the hell was going on here? Finally, close enough to make it without getting trampled, I ran to the gate and got out just before they came up to it and put their noses through. What kind of bovines from hell were these? Carnivores going to exact revenge for my 40 years of eating beef? I went back to the inn and told the owner what happened. She laughed. She said they are just curious and can't hurt me. Hah! In fact, she said, wave your arms and they will run for their lives. At that point, my evalovin' ball and chainsaw was up and decided to join me. The innkeeper gave us a big walking stick. We walked back to the gate where those hell-cows were waiting for us. She waved the stick and as one their eyes grew big and then one of them screamed "Rrrrrrrrr-uuuuuuuu-nnnnnn!!!!!!" (in Cowese, of course, it sounded like "moooooooo"). And they ran. Now I was shaking my fist at them and screaming, "You want a piece of me, you  cowards?" (did you get the pun?)

Wish I knew that would happen before she was with me. I don't have a great picture from that walk in Ireland, but I do from a national park a few days earlier, during a hike which should really make the list too:

10. Kew Gardens, London. This was during my first trip out of the country, which I wrote about in Knock down, drag out vacation ("Knock down") on 11/18/10.  This walk was one of the least dramatic events of that trip. It was 1985. I was still 25 as it was early June.  Despite my injury (you'll have to read the other post) I decided to go to Kew Gardens and walk around. I took the train most of the way and started walking. Along the way, I picked up an old woman who also was walking to the Gardens. I can't remember her name, but she was in her 70s. During our walk, she told me about her life, all of which I've long forgotten. But, I do remember it was her goal to take the Concorde jet to America. Her doctors forbid it because of her heart condition, but she didn't care. She was going to do it anyway one day. I don't know if she did, or if she went, if it killed her - the fear of which was why her doctors were against it. I doubt it happened because I think we would have heard about it.

On the way there, she asked me to stop at the home of her friend, Delia Somethingorother, who, when a young beauty, was a minor film star in America.  I looked her up when I got back to home, pre-internet, and sure enough, she was in the movies, though star would be stretching it. At the time, of course, Delia was 70 something too, but told me about her career. Finally, my new friend and I walked the rest of the way and I spend 2 or so hours walking around probably the prettiest park I'd ever been in during my young life. Those Brits have feng shui down pat. If you read Knock down, you understand why I don't have a lot of pictures. I'm pretty sure only one picture I took came out and it was of Kew Gardens. But, not a good one and I am sure it is in a box somewhere. I think I took it before my camera was destroyed - I think I had to have - but it looked like I took it on the cloudiest day in history. You are not missing anything.

More: That's the top ten list, although now I feel oddly guilty that I am giving short shrift to some incredible hikes I've taken in other places and it's dawning on me how many I've gone on in my life (for an essentially lazy guy, I've walked a lot). Many of these were spectacular too, and this is a Holiday Spectacular. So . . .

My evalovin' gf and I did a 7 1/2 hour hike in Sedona with one stunning view after another.

We walked up the mountain at the Mohonk Mountain House, which I think I've visited 3 times now, could be 4, and toured the stunning autumn grounds and when we got up by the hotel went on a fascinating walk under mountain ledges, up ladders and through a little hole called the lemon squeeze to get to the top with a view of the surrounding valleys.

In Greece my friends and I hiked down a steep rocky decline to Preveli Beach for 45 minutes and that evening took 1 1/2 hours to get up again to quench our thirst at the world's best situated fresh orange juice truck. I've hiked through cacti and junipers near Phoenix in Tonto National Forest all alone when I started thinking a little too much about mountain lions and turned back after an hour even knowing that one wouldn't likely attack a full grown male (it was also ridiculously hot), and I nearly passed out in over 100 degree heat after hiking up and down Camelback Mountain near Scottsdale - though it was still early morning. I took a couple of hikes in the snow with Don in Montana near his cabin - this is a strange picture -

but it is Montana, and very recently I walked most of the entire Riverwalk in San Antonio - though it was in a city technically, I think it is unique and faux-natural enough to call a hike.

I don't know how many hikes I took when I was living in Virginia, but it had to be over 100 times, mostly in the George Washington and Thomas Jefferson National Parks, on or around the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway, a few even in the snow. Once up the highest mountain in the Va. Blue Ridge, a couple of times up to the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi. I'm sure I hiked the trail at The Natural Bridge trail 40 or 50 times alone because my first summer there I did it almost every day.

I've been over the tail end of Long Island's Greenbelt Trail at The Bluff overlooking Long Island Sound too many times to count (one year alone I probably went a few dozen times). And who knows how many times I've hiked around Stump Pond in a local park; it takes 4 hours to do the whole thing - for me at least.

In Portugal I took a hike up a beachside mountain which was so steep, I couldn't go straight down again and had to walk a couple of miles out of the way through a dry ravine, wondering the whole way what wild animals lived there?

Me, my gf, my daughter and her then boyfriend (now my son-in-law) hiked in Zion and Bryce Canyons National Parks which were almost as stunning as the Grand Canyon. 

My gf and I also took several long hikes in Canyon de Chelly in Northern Arizona with its bright red cliffs and blueish green shrubs, which though not quite as spectacular as those other canyons, was still really wonderful(we camped out 4 days, long enough to know it's probably the last time). To the left is the beautiful Spider Rock.

We also took a long walk on the south coast of Crete, which I'm not sure counts as we were walking to and fro a neighboring beach, but it was over a mountain, so maybe it does (count it, don't count it - who cares? It was beautiful).

These should all be in a top ten.  Actually, feeling very lucky right now thinking about this and that's what Xmas is all about (it's not, but you can say that about almost anything and Christmas and some people will nod and say, "yes, yes.")

Revisiting the top twenty holiday (mostly Xmas) songs

I've done this list before, but it needed redoing. I have a new favorite Xmas song.

1. Game of Bells. This is a medley by a French trio called L.E.J. The music supposedly comes from  the theme of Game of Thrones (I take their word for it as I've never heard it myself). Listen to this one. I'd say it was already a classic except, no one has ever mentioned it to me before. It makes my list for the first time.

2. Hallelujah. How do you explain this? I never heard this song until last year after I made my last Xmas music favorites list. When I tell that to most people who listen to music, they can't believe it. Even though I rarely listen to music on the radio when driving or at home, I do listen at Xmas time and you'd think I'd know it. It's by Leonard Cohen, who coincidentally died last year just as I was learning about his song. Since I first heard it last year, I've  listened to it dozens of times. It is not technically a Xmas song, but it is played a lot at this time of year, which makes it a holiday song. Also on my list for the first time.
3. All I want for Xmas is you. Not the Mariah Carey song, but Vince Vaughn and the Vandals one hit wonder. Formerly, my number one.
4. Baby it's cold outside. There are blithering idiots in this world who think this song is about date rape. Actually, it was written by the great Frank Loesser ("Guys and Dolls") for his wife and they would sing it at parties together. She was, I read, furious when he sold it a few years later. For some reason I haven't been able to uncover, people think the famous Johnny Mercer/Margaret Whiting version was done by Doris Day and Bing Crosby, who never recorded it. You can even find recordings online that wrongly attributes it to them. There are many covers, but the Whiting/Mercer version is still my favorite.
5. Let it Snow. I have met a lot of people who prefer Dean to Frank. But, this one song is especially joyous and perfect. There are no other versions that can even touch it. The lyrics were written by the immortal Sammy Cahn, who was nominated for 32 major awards (I counted myself - mostly Oscars, and he won a bunch), while he and one of his writing partners, Jule Styne, were in the desert. 
6. Cool Yule. This song, written by Steve Allen (yes, that Steve Allen). That wouldn't be that surprising if you knew he was also a successful composer before The Tonight Show. He even won a Grammy (with Ray Brown) for a jazz piece (Gravy Waltz), which honestly wasn't that good, if you ask me. Cool Yule was first performed by Louis Armstrong and it is still the one to listen to. It makes my list for the first time.
7. Joy to the World. Obviously, obviously, obviously - the Whitney Houston version. I've said it before. Despite how good Mariah was, Whitney was the greatest pure female singer of her generation.
8.  Snoopy and the Red Baron. The Royal Guardsman. Still brings a tear to my eye after all these years when they sing - "Or was it the bells below?"
9. Pachobel's Canon. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Actually, I am cramming their three big Xmas songs into 8-10, sort of a tie, because it's my blog and I want to.
10. Tie. Christmas Eve. Trans-Siberian Orchestra.TSO was actually a progressive rock band who made themselves famous with Christmas music. Their founder, Paul O'Neill, was previously a producer for a number of well-known bands, including Aerosmith. He died earlier this year, but the band goes on.
10. Tie. Siberian Sleigh Ride. TSO.
11.   Linus and Lucy (from a Charlie Brown Christmas – I think of it as a Christmas song)
12.   Frosty the Snow Man (Jimmy Durante)
13.   Home for the Holidays (Perry Como)
14.   Christmas (Maria Carey)15.   Put one foot in front of the other (Fred Astaire)
16.   Ave Maria (Andrea Bocelli)
17.   It’s the most wonderful time of the year (Andy Williams)
18.   Winter Wonderland (Eurythmics)
19.   Santa Baby (Marilyn Monroe and also Daniela Andrade – more on her below)
20.   Zat you, Santa Claus? (Louis Armstrong)

That's it for the year. Merry Christmas. Happy Chanukah.                                         Happy New Year.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Political update for November, 2017

There's a lot going on and only I, out of the six billion people on this planet, have something valuable to say about it. I’m sure you will agree after reading the following:

Stand, kneel, play patty cake – what do I care? Just don’t bore me.

The whole NFL anthem thing is almost played out – and pretty much where I wanted to be in the first place. That’s good, because for once the NFL, whose games I love to watch, but whose organization I’ve come to have little respect for, got it right for a change. But, let's start at the beginning.

Kaepernick - So, Kaep was a decent quarterback in this league who had a lot of potential, but during his last two years the 49ers were a poor team and he showed no improvement. Statistically, he’s right about the same place as he had been, but the teams not winning and efforts to improve his game (including with mentoring from Hall of Famer Kurt Warner) seemed not to help at all. Though he comes from a middle class family into which he was adopted, he may have been radicalized a little by a new girlfriend (that's the narrative and what it seems like, but I really don’t know - maybe he was leaning that way already), and it also seems that he is feeling some kind of youthful identity stress. I don’t know that he is acting with any more or less political savvy than other people. He’s 30 now. I probably felt a lot like he did in my early 20s - not a commie, but definitely a lefty. I grew out of it. 

I actually liked Kaepernick quite a bit for a while. Though I thought a lot of Alex Smith, who he replaced as starter (and who is a few years later having the year of his life), I wanted to see Kaep play.  He seemed like he had a fun loving personality and was absolutely a great athlete, if not ever an elite QB. I remember one play, probably in 2013, which endeared him to me personally. He had just run the ball and was forced out of bounds. A defensive player on the other team was jawing at him coming off the sidelines back to the field. Kaep smiled at him sweetly and just pointed to the scoreboard. Maybe he has changed. Like with entertainers, we only see their public persona and not necessarily the real person. He was fined for something he said on the field, not sure what, fined for wearing headphones the league didn’t endorse (that’s a knock on them, not him, in my book) and had a fight with a teammate who used to date his new girlfriend. Nothing horrible, but, you don’t see Eli Manning or Russell Wilson doing those type of things either, right?

Anyway, for whatever reason, in 2016 he started sitting out the anthem. He didn’t make a big deal about it until asked why during an interview. Naturally, there was a reaction, but, though I have trouble with his statements that black people are oppressed (not that there isn't prejudice on both sides) or that cops are quicker to shoot them than other people, I could be wrong and they obviously have a long history of oppression against them and many people still feel they are today. On the other hand, even President Obama said it is a lot better now than ever. 

Actually, I don’t need to agree or disagree with him at all, or even know why he is sitting. I don’t care. As far as I’m concerned he could sit or kneel, as he did in the last game of the season, for any reason or no reason at all. I’m sure I’ve written here on one occasion at least that in high school I often lay down on the radiator during home room while the pledge of allegiance was recited, mostly out of exhaustion, but partly because I was never comfortable with public displays of patriotism, and when younger would sometimes not stand for the anthem for both of those reasons. I tend to stand in public these days during the anthem, because it upsets people more than I care, and I'm a little less exhausted, but there have been times I haven’t stood if I was in a back row.

In any event, some other players emulated him, and some much better athletes than him, including some on the Seattle Sea Hawks. This year it took off, especially when our whiz kid from Queens opened his bi-i-i-g-g mouth and said that players should be fired or benched – whatever. Then, the protest became something else. Whole teams linked arms in some kind of show of unity/protest and there were some black power salutes.

Now there was even more push back. Some people took Trump’s side, although I think he was idiotic about it, perhaps just trying to rally his base. I personally knew people who said they refused to watch the games while players were protesting. As many people pointed out, people are buying hot dogs and doing whatever they want during the anthem. Why can’t players do the same? What could be a more peaceful display of someone’s opinion than merely sitting or taking a knee? Some people seem to think is more respectful to the armed forces (I have no idea why they are part of the discussion – are they why we have the anthem? If so, I sure didn’t know that).

The NFL definitely has its eye on the bottom line. It is the reason for most of their stupid decisions although, they are a business and it is hard to blame them for trying. I don’t know if they are handling it right. There tv numbers – the reason for all that big money – that have been dwindling. But, that is also true of cable tv and sports in general, or so I read. The powers that be in the NFL, mostly my nemesis, Goodell, decided they’d better do something about the bad publicity from the protests. But, at the same time, being that the large majority of their players are black, they needed to tread lightly. Jerry Jones, the owner of the Cowboys, told his team whoever protests doesn’t play and it looked like the NFL was going to follow suite. But they didn’t. Goodell, in an NFL network interview, made it clear there were no policy changes and they wanted to talk to players about social justice. So, they had a meeting. It looked like they were even going to have Kaepernick, but then they didn’t.

What took place at the meeting, I can’t say. I guess there was “dialogue.” About what, I don’t know. It’s not like anyone is accusing the NFL, one the most minority dominated big businesses in the country, of oppressing blacks. I don’t know who they are accusing of oppressing them. Is it still about cops? The NFL, which is suddenly responsible for racial justice in this country, as if they were a branch of the civil rights division in Washington, agreed at the meeting that it would have a month set aside for social justice. No idea what that will entail, probably public service messages and some promotions. Maybe those representing the players wanted a way out too.

 Now, it comes out one of the owners,  Houston's Robert McNair, made a comment about the inmates running the prison, or was it asylum? So, he had to apologize for using an expression. Because e v e r y t h i n g is about color now, I guess his expression – one that had no racial meaning I knew of - became all about race too. Yawn. So, his team was affronted because that means . . . ummm . . . the owner’s a racist? The millionaire players are oppressed?  

Me? Not enough to not watch the games, but I just wanted everyone to shut up about it. I don't think it does a thing for what the protests are intended to do (I still am not sure what) and I don't think it does a thing for the military or police to have it pushed to the side. It just makes me happier.

In the meantime, Kaepernick has sued the league on the grounds that there is a conspiracy not to hire him. That means owners had to get together to say – hey, lets not hire Kaep. That’s going to be hard to prove. I understand why they don’t want to hire him. For one thing, he started the whole thing. He had also worn socks with pigs wearing cop hats, which he claims he wore before he started sitting down and only represented rogue cops, and he wore a Che tee-shirt to some event or another. Che is a hero to rebels but to others a vicious murderer. Kaep now also sports an afro which we kind of associate with the ‘60s and “black power.” Some people may think that’s great, and maybe he’s a trend setter. But, others are going to be angry about it. Not because they are racist (although I’d bet some are), but because they hate racial divisiveness. Let’s face it – Che was and Kaep is divisive, and he’s not good enough to overcome it. There are other QBs not playing or second string who are better than he is -- but they aren’t divisive. There were and still are other guys protesting, but they were either really good, or great, or they were kneeling next to guys who were. If Kaep was good enough, he’d get hired too. Mediocre and divisive are a bad combination.

I’ve written before about what I think is going on in racial relations in America and I don’t want to go into it here. Why? Because I’m watching football. And there is nothing racist about football. Along with basketball, it is practically the antithesis of racism – unless you count reverse racism. The revolution is taking on almost ludicrous behaviors and opinions. Recently, the NAACP demanded that the national anthem be changed to remove a reference to slavery – not even an obnoxious reference, but one that simply acknowledges that there were slaves and indentured servants. I knew there was more than one stanza to the anthem, but I don’t know how many there are. I would expect that not one person in 10,000 knows that there is more than one, not one in a million knows how many and not one in ten million know the words. And what would it mean to change the words that are never sang or thought about by almost anyone in the country? Finding old books and burning them or just having some government official stating – we change these words and henceforth everyone pretend Francis Scott Key never wrote them.  I don’t get it. It would be like Jews demanding that people stop mentioning the holocaust or Americans that people stop writing novels about 9/11. You can’t change history. These things happened. We are better off knowing and thinking about them.

Also, recently, an NBA player suggested we stop calling owners "owners." "Chairman" would be better. Why you ask? Not that we have slavery, but apparently for him, using the word "owner" is some kind of holdover from slavery we should get past. Thanks to Mark Cuban for pointing out that the ownership involved is not of people, but shares of stock or a team.  

So, my preference – sit, stand, kneel, sing, don’t sing, I don’t care. It’s harmless, absolutely peaceful protest about something concerning race, but I’m no longer sure what. Maybe it just means for the protester - we are black and we still feel stigmatized or threatened or we are protesting for those who look more like us but don’t have million dollar salaries. It’s not that I don’t care about race relations or people’s feelings. I just don’t want to hear about it or see it while I’m trying to watch football. It would be like a football game breaking out in a super market while I'm trying to shop.

Weinstein, you knucklehead, you may be disgusting, you may be a criminal, but you may also have helped women get past a stigma of being sexually assaulted

It was exactly zero shock for people to read that there was an avalanche of women coming out of the shadows to accuse a film producer of sexual harassment. I’ve known since I’m a child that there was a casting couch and that many young actresses, maybe old ones too for all I knew, who felt they had to have sex with people in power to get good roles. Or put up with uncomfortable situations. And many times they were likely right.

Harvey Weinstein, is, undoubtedly, a pig. Yes, when this many women come out, I do believe them, at least most of them. He is probably, based on the accusations, a criminal, though he denies that part of it. It’s actually not fair that some of the commentary seems to focus on his looks. He’s not a good looking guy, but that shouldn’t be the issue.

What I’m glad to see mostly is that women who were before being quiet, because they felt they wouldn’t be believed, or that they’d be shamed, now feel they can speak up. But, if all it is, is a snowball related to Weinstein and a few other chosen people who were predatory, it is not enough.

Many, many years ago I heard something in summer camp that I still remember. I was somewhere between 8-10 and a camp counselor, probably in her young 20s - to me very grown up, was saying that she had to wear a blue dress for her wedding because she had been raped – she couldn’t wear the traditional white. I was outraged for her but thought she was crazy to think that way. Why should she be shamed or stigmatized because someone else did something horrible? Don’t ask me where I got this idea that intentions should matter a lot and that traditions that shamed, denigrated, stigmatized or denounced people over things that were not in their control and seemed to have no rational relationship between the fact and the reaction, were not good traditions, but I had it very young, still in my single digits. Maybe everyone does, but it never seemed like that to me. It seemed closer to the opposite. People seem to like those stigmas, sometimes even when they apply to themselves.

But, at the same time I felt outraged for her, I was also very impressed that she didn’t seem to be ashamed that she was raped and could speak about it. I was already aware that rape, like almost anything sexual or biological in those days (we didn't even discuss that women had menstrual cycles) was a hush-hush matter. And, again, maybe all or most young kids know that. I’m not sure where we learn it.

Somewhere along the road of life I started to say outloud that I thought that women would be better off if their names were not hidden in rape cases and that the should be very upfront about it if they were sexually abused. The idea of sexual harassment was only slowly developing.  Definitely by my 20s.  But, quickly I learned it wasn’t an appreciated position to take publicly. People immediately got mad – as usual when I said what I thought about anything emotionally charged – and often they changed what I was saying into something different and definitely offensive, and claimed I was demeaning women, that I couldn't know what rape was like, and I shouldn’t have anything to say about it. Usually, if I have an opinion that was different than most people, I’d know that at least some people agreed with me, sometimes many people, but that being less awkward and more social than I was, were uncomfortable saying it in public (e.g., there are a lot more atheists/agnostics than admitted it publicly). But, with this opinion, I seemed to be completely on my own. Honestly, it didn’t come up a lot, but that was my impression.

Jump ahead to 1991 and the William Kennedy Smith rape case. There’s a lot that can be said about that case – there have been books about it – but I just am focusing on the fact that Ms. Bowman, the alleged victim was publicly outed, rather than being hid and the crime being prosecuted against an anonymous person. Though I tended to believe Kennedy in the scenario described, having heard the testimony, I was glad to see it was being brought out of the shadows for the defendant's sake, but also for hers, even if she protested.*

*Just as an aside, though people associate his name with the rape case too, few people are aware that subsequent to the trial, he received his M.D. and went on to a storied career as a humanitarian dealing with land mines and innovative ways to help poor countries with medical issues. No, you idiots, I’m not saying if he was a rapist his career gives him absolution (I’m actually sorry to have to say this, but I too frequently get reminded how people argue), I’m just saying that he was not just the party boy he was portrayed to be. I’ve read that he was accused as late as 2004 of sexual assault, which he denied, pointing out that he was very susceptible to accusations (a good point whether he’s a rapist or not). I don’t know what’s true. I’m just noting that anyone would be proud to have his humanitarian record. Both could be true.  

Still, I did not see much evidence that women were being taught not to be ashamed to be victims. I get the problem still. They did not want to be the subject of hostility from ogres, and there are plenty of them, have their sex lives dragged out in public, maybe have their careers and life affected, have people whisper when they came into a room, etc. Nor have that general horrible feeling of having someone else exercise their will over them (presuming they are telling the truth). And I’m not saying I would feel or act differently, because I am subject to the same cultural training as they are. I am saying that we should get past it, and that case was a small step.

But, now, maybe, things are changing a little bit. Obviously, as time goes by we see more women, and sometimes men, willing to come out and say that they were abused. There’s courage in numbers, clearly. Although it seems there is a lot going on, there’s no way to know if this outing stuff will trickle down to those who can’t get in the media spotlight because the accused aren’t famous. I don’t know if it will empower people at work or other places at all. We’ll see, I guess. And, I’m also not suggesting that some of the accusations are false. It is just as dangerous to suggest that women don’t lie about rape or assault as to take the man’s side by rote.

I will only touch upon one more point about it. We have a tendency in this country to throw the baby out with the bath water when we have cultural change. While it is important - incredibly important - that women not be sexually assaulted or harassed at work, and I welcome this Weinstein generated movement in general, we do not want to create a situation where the work place becomes a sexual bonfire of the vanities - where every social interraction between male and female workers is made non-sexual and castigated as evil. Because that is what we have been teaching our young people. Love and sexuality exists even at work. You can't cut it out of you by force or law. Many relationships, I don't know if still most, are created there. It is one of the few places you can get to know people well in a natural environment and we are way to hung up about sex in general. Mild flirtation, dating, even sex does not have to be evil or wrong in the work environment. Probably little of it is. Just today I read of a journalist at CNN saying that she gave a man permission to say her dress look pretty. Now, that's insane.


               While he was running I said that if he won, he’d be a terrible president but it would be very entertaining. It is. Partly because he’s such a moron (of course, Tillerson said that, whatever his denials – I don’t know that for a fact, but I believe it – I call a lot of people a moron at some point; it’s a common character assessment for even minor mistakes and Trump makes major ones repeatedly) and partly because of the resistance, which I’ve written on here before, is in a state of hysteria* and keeps his presidency aflame too.

*I’ve been a little conscious of the usual partisan fear and hatred for the opposition since Nixon and very much so since Reagan – when I joined in, being then very liberal. The reaction to Bush II was a large uptick in animosity towards the opposition president, possibly because the election was so close; Obama possibly more so, because of the attempt and partial success in changing our government, but at least the same amount; but the white hot “hysteria” regarding Trump is a giant leap back to uglier times in American history. Part of that is Trump’s fault, as he was the most insulting, degrading and flagrantly dishonest campaigner we’ve seen in modern times. Pay back is a bitch, as they say. It makes it very difficult for him to govern now at all, as even many in his own party intensely dislike him or don’t mind watching him flail. I have my own friends and family members who literally can’t bear any disagreement about him. One friend, who invited me over, started talking about him and literally became hysterical when I agreed on A,B and C insults, but not about D, and said heatedly he was going upstairs if I kept talking about him. The other day a relative started every sentence with how fair he was to Trump and then would become white hot with rage by the end of the sentence and called him a “Nazi.” Those are just my own experiences, but I see this all the time with Trump, mainly in op-eds criticizing him. Unfortunately, his supporters rarely match the emotion in defending him because it is so hard to defend someone who constantly shoots himself in the foot.

Anyone could justify doing their entire political review on Trump. He is almost the only subject and not just about politics. His adversaries make almost everything about him. Too much is written about him for me to want to do wander endlessly about him though. I’m just going to sum up some issues.

I still don’t see the Trump-Russian connection. Though some of his opposition says – but there are already indictments and a conviction – no there aren’t, not about his campaign's supposed collusion with Russia (which, as has been pointed out ad nauseam, isn’t a crime, unless it’s connected to a real crime). Neither Manafort nor his partner are accused of “collusion” crimes. Even Flynn, who had not yet been indicted will not likely be indicted for that. And Papadopoulos pled to lying to the FBI, which does not even rise to the level of perjury and is just a blunt tool to force people to say what the FBI wants it to say. Which makes any testimony he may have about collusion tainted.  None of the above were or will be accused, as far as we know now, of any collusion, however their adversaries might choose to phrase it. So far, every revelation about a discussion or possibility of some minor league collusion, seems to show that there was none (not that there couldn’t be - I'm just not sure I'd think there was anything wrong with it).

Trump’s main problem is not the “resistance.” Had he the support of all Republicans in congress, he’d be able to sweep most of it aside. But, many of them give him tepid support and some, like McCain, Corker and Flake have just plain come out against him. Even the independent counsel is a product of Republican dislike for him, as they are the majority and could have limited the scope of the investigation or not had it at all (although it is largely Sessions' fault).  Not that I have a problem with the investigation of Russian interference with the election or into Trump’s business conflicts. Both are legitimate topics. But, the craze over collusion so far looks delusional. Show me a fact, I’ll change my mind.

When I first assessed Trump in June of this year, I wrote that the following was dead in the water –  the stupid wall; banning Muslims from America except for new standards for vetting asylum seekers in general; self or forced deportation of millions of illegal aliens and an independent counsel to investigate the Clinton emails.

In a comment Bear took me to task, suggesting it was already happening. I still disagree. So far, though he keeps trying – I think to make it look good for his base – congress has shown no interest in the stupid wall. Despite the hysteria over his orders, which affected citizens from seven, then six predominantly Muslim countries, there has never been an order banning Muslims and isn’t going to be.*  The WH has already announced there will be no mass deportations and the only thing he has done is not renew an illegal DAPA (I didn’t say it – a court did) and tried to bolster the border patrol – crossings are way down and even his opposition has a hard time saying that we should not have a border (although, I do know there are some who feel that way). Last, right away it was announced that the email investigation was over, though I'm sure some Republicans would like to have it re-investigated. We’d need some dramatic new revelation to change that.

*Some people will argue that these are, in fact, Muslim bans and that even he has called it that and insisted that this is what it his orders really were. Well, as I said, he can be an moron. The orders specifically forbid discriminating by religion, although they are almost entirely Muslim countries. But, can anyone deny that these few countries do have a significant population which might pose a threat to us and do not have control of their own immigration or borders. In addition, we are not also so bound to them politically or otherwise so that a ban would destroy the relationship (e.g., Saudi Arabia). In any event, the entire population of these countries is well below 10% of the Muslims in the world. The latest so-called “ban,” was a proclamation which was also stayed by Hawaiian and Maryland district courts. Supposedly they will be appealed, but it is possible they will be ignored. I have to admit, though I think these orders mostly unnecessary, I am disturbed that under our constitutional system a district court (the lowest federal court) can stop the president from acting in what he believes is a national security matter in what I believe is a political way by lower courts. It gives a judge in the other party the opportunity to control what is legitimately presidential power.  Imagine if nationwide orders of Exxon’s or Microsoft’s CEO could be stopped by a local production manager. This power was essentially usurped by the court system long ago (Obama had the media support to just ignore such orders when he wanted to) and I guess people like it.

But, despite all the negativity from the press towards Trump, despite the fierceness of his opposition and the distraction of the Russia investigation, he has what would certainly be considered successes for other presidents in that their supporters liked them (let’s not forget Obama got a Nobel Prize just for being elected). The economy is growing faster than it has in years, consumer confidence is up, as I said – illegal border crossings are down and the border administration doesn’t feel like they are the enemy, the rules of engagement for our armed forces has been made more reasonable, ISIS as a political and military force is being reduced rapidly, Russia has stopped pestering planes with theirs (I think since February, shortly after the inauguration) and Iran our ships since July when we fired warning shots at them. I think they get the message that there is a new sheriff in town - even if he sometimes acts like an idiot, who does not feel that humility is a virtue in foreign affairs. The stock market is at an all-time high (although, we should always be nervous about bullish markets). New jobs are way up and unemployment way down. New regulations have come to a stand-still and are being reduced, manufacturing and housing are up. NATO has responded to his call for a greater anti-terrorism focus. I could go on, but if you want to say those are talking points, they are. I took them from various lists so I wouldn’t have to think hard. Still, doesn’t mean they aren’t real. You will not see these arguments in most of the mainstream media though. You have to read online. Yes, you can absolutely argue that some, many or all of these things are actually bad for us (although some it would be hard to do so) or that he has little to do with him (again, some, you really can’t). I’m not judging here. Some things he does I like, more things I don’t. I’m just saying that other presidents would be given “credit” for them.

Love him, hate him. I know good people who feel both ways. We will be lucky if this is the narrative that we have for the next 4-8 years because it will mean nothing horrible has happened.

               The future is easy to predict until you get there. I love to predict elections, even who is going to run, and sometimes I do it well, sometimes abominably. I really don’t think I’m any better or worse at it than anyone else. It is human nature to think when you are right it was because of some good qualities in you – logic, knowledge, intelligence, etc. And when you are wrong, it is because something unforeseeable got in the way. Even if we realize that this isn’t the case, we still feel that it is true anyway.  

               During the Obama years, I wrote about 8 of 10 installments of why he was the worst president in my lifetime. Even worse than his predecessor. Never finished it. Trump may surpass him too. I’m not sure yet because Trump hasn’t had a chance to do much. The other day - election day -the normal trend occurred, where the Democrats gained seats in the house during election following the presidential election. We don’t know if it is going to get worse next year when Senate seats are up for grabs. But, not unlikely. Trump can do nothing with a majority, I doubt he will do more with less of one. And maybe this is what is best, no party with complete control to wreak havoc on the idiots who elected them.

               Nevertheless, I am going to start making election predictions for 2020 sooner than later, probably around the end of 2018, could be early 2019, which isn’t all that far away.  If you wait until there’s a clear front runner, or just follow the polls, you aren't predicting much. The two main questions I’m asking myself now are no different than what many other people are wondering – will the Democrats continue what they’ve been doing and double down on the leftwards trend and nominate a Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Sanders type, and, two, will Trump run again. Right now, I’d bet a little both things will be so, but I don’t feel a whole lot of conviction about it (actually, probably rarely do about these things).

               In the meantime, enjoy or withstand the roller coaster, if you can.

About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .