23 January 2017

...chapter begins.

from facebook? welcome.
its been awhile since i graced these pages. i'm glad they're still here.

been thinking and studying. 

a lot.

believe i've found some answers; but they lay down a complicated path.

not the sort of journey everybody is up for, but i know some of you are thinkers.
and for reasons we'll get into here, there isn't much new for you to think about.

i'd like to change that.

present a new philosophy, complete with new doctrines, strategies and tactics to fix a specific problem.

hope you're up for that journey.

its 2017. the threat is real -- although not what you imagine. it must be faced and defeated, or we will die here.  

i believe it can be defeated without firing a shot, or making anything explode -- but it requires us thinkers to do our thing first.

so i'm putting it out here.

you know what to do...


05 January 2012


                                  image: http://www.bunny-comic.com/1503.html

Every year I search an appropriate image of Father Time, gather my thoughts in a blog, and offer a hopefully positive thought for the New Year.

I'm late.

I know, and have no apologies to offer for the tardiness.

I have never been happier to kiss a year goodbye.

2011 was pivotal -- in all the directions I prefer not to travel, and I am glad to bid it adieu.

This year's image is the Father Time I faced for all of 2011; a horrible, miserable, jackass of a year.

But I am grateful for my survival.

Many years I am also grateful for the survival of the people closest to me. But this bastard snatched some of my closest, and carried them away from me forever.

I can only hope 2012 is a less grim and less brutal. I hope to score more points in the battle; and stand bloody perhaps, but unbowed when the final bell rings.

For now, I am satisfied to be alive. Held up by one phrase that entered my consciousness from the pen of my dear angel Elizabeth years ago, and has hopefully attached itself permanently to a spot near the front of my brain permanently.

She told me (and the rest of yahoo 360) that she "knows why the angels bow." Her words came as the title and theme of her cybersharing the gut-wrenching and heartwarming experience of watching her grandson kick and fight his way past the darkness to take his place as the then-newest member of her family here on earth. His was a journey fraught with danger. After a fierce battle he'd arrived to a baptism of his mother's tears, still swaddled in the blood of the struggle.

I haven't checked in with her for awhile, but I trust he is well on his way to a place as one of our strongest warriors. I need him to be, for at the moment, he is my silent and invisible mentor.

Which brings me to the important part. My blessing for 2012.

My blessing this year is simple.

I wish for your survival.

We may thrive, we may succeed, we may even propel to greatness this year. From behind my eyes, that would all be extra credit.

I want you and I to both be alive when the clock next strikes Happy New Year.

The rest is gravy. If I have ever loved you; know that I still do. If we were ever friends, know that we still are. And if we are foes; know that I only wish to live to fight again--you at your strongest, me at my best.



29 May 2011

I only cried once...

...and I'm not sure what set that ceremony apart.

Patrick Air Force Base.

Cocoa Beach Florida. 1992/3.

Base Honor Guard.

It was that part of my military career where I was going to a LOT of funerals.

Thanks to the Persian Gulf War cleaning out the 2nd MOB, and Hurricane Andrew decimating the honor guards at Homestead, anyone lucky enough to already be on honor guard could manage to make it a full time job, if you had an understanding boss.

I did. Lonnie was awesome.

Let me sign up for as many funerals as I wanted. There were hundreds. Snowbirds die at an alarming rate, and many have earned rights to full military honors.

The busiest day I remember had 7 funerals. They were back to back to back and involved a chopper flight at one point. Hopped on just north of Daytona Beach, rode the Chinook to a pad just south of Miami.

There are four basic honors a military honor guard at the base level provides:

1. pall bearing

2. 21-gun salute

3. taps

4. flag presentation

From the front end -- they are dignified, impressive components, all of them. people rarely join honor guard in a funeral zone for the ribbon. a few like me, were trying to get out of work, but most are the extremely patriotic, who are there to honor the history.

i wasn't one of those at first. i just like the precision of it all.

The snaps, spats, and aiguillettes, adding a crispy flair to the most plain-jane dress uniform in the Pentagon's closet.

The specialized drill routines, formulated for funerals, and practiced on a grassy field until they happened silently, flawlessly, without need for an uttered command.

The strangled rifles. M1s with seven-blank cartridges and metal-blocked muzzles.

I remember a meeting -- something at the beginning of summer "season" when old Soldiers, and Marines with permission, and Airmen headed for the wild blue yonder, and Sailors bound for following seas typically start to line up for their procession from the Sunshine State.

We talked about the tempo of the ceremonies, and how each was a family's last memory of a departing loved one, and how one day it would be us in the coffin.

And then it started. Day after grinding day of strapping the straps, buttoning the buttons, wiping off the dust, and climbing on the bus.

Opening the hearse, sliding the coffin out, bracing for that moment when the trailing edge slipped off the roller and we were left at center stage to determine if we'd calculated enough muscle power for the job, trudging to the green tent, navigating around the ever-present shovels sticking out of a mound of dirt, occasionally straining to lift a particularly heavy coffins onto the brass frame.

unhooking rifles, drilling to port arms, waiting through a graveside eulogy, watching a widow cry, soundlessly shifting port to ready to aim.

holding it.

waiting for the command.




it ALWAYS made the widow or the mother or the baby jump.

Then resting your cheek to the butt of the rifle and waiting for taps.

He was part of the team, but never traveled with us.

Never checked in, never said hello. He was a civilian bugler. I guess he'd been Air Force at one point or another ... but I don't actually ever remember meeting him.

He was always behind the trees, or over the hill. And he was dependable like the sunset. A few beats after the last rifle report ... he invisibly commandeered center stage.

His rendition of TAPS still echoes through my memory. He liked to let taps ... waft ... with the wind.

Come hauntingly over the hill on a hot-assed blast of Florida summer.

They were never real people to me at first -- the ones in the coffins. They were names and ranks, and special instructions:

"deceased is obese, please be aware that the coffin may require reinforced manpower."

"deceased is believed to have committed suicide. mother and wife are sworn enemies. mother has vowed to kill wife at gravesite ... to 'send daughter-in-law to hell with her son' ... additional security may be prudent."

When you lift the flag off a coffin, and the six (...or two) of you start to snap it into a triangle fit for immortality in a living room, it feels like folding a spread with your mother. Except the creases matter.

And when you lean over to the grieving widow with that folded flag in hand, you stiffly present it to her with a solemn face. You look directly at her eyes. You do not blink, and you say:

"On behalf of the President of the United States, the Department of the Air Force, and a grateful nation, we offer this flag for the faithful and dedicated service of ****. God bless you and this family, and God bless the United States of America."

That moment always matters. Sometimes the widow, or mother, or daughter-I cannot ever remember giving a flag to a man--returns your stare, and you can see a lifetime of twisting emotions behind her pupils. Sometimes she wants to kill you. Sometimes she wants to hug you. She ALWAYS half-clears her throat, and manages a hoarse "thankyou."

It was 18 months of funeral after funeral after funeral after funeral. From Jacksonville to the Keys, South of Tampa to Homestead.

Two stick out.

Christmas, 1993. We got a request from the wife of a Retired Lieutenant Colonel for military honors on his December 25th burial in Miami. We couldn't get an entire team together, but a Staff Sergeant and I volunteered to go present a flag.

We talked all the way down, listening to a CD of Sade's No Ordinary Love. Hey, it was Christmas~

It was ... a sad little funeral. Just a widow, a rabbi, and some random guy who looked like either an old friend, or a drinking buddy from the bar. The Staff Sergeant made the presentation. The wife cried then handed each of us an envelope.

"I know it's Christmas. I know you didn't have to do this. It means a lot to me, and I know it would have meant a lot to him," she said.

She wouldn't take the envelopes back.

We were silent all the way back up I-95.

The second was when I cried.

I still have no idea WHY that one hit me so hard. I didn't know him. Didn't think his family looked particularly like mine, or like someone I knew. Wasn't having a bad day, guns didn't jam, coffee was hot. We didn't get lost finding the grave site.

I was on the rifle detail. We had seven that day. (Sometimes you have three, and fire 7 rounds each...)

And I was standing there on a hill, at a cemetery in Orlando, Florida that is the final resting place for thousands of vets ... hundreds of whom I'd honored personally...

And we fired the volleys, and my cheek was resting on the stock of my impotent but noisy gun ... and I had 3 funerals left that day, and a bead of sweat ran down out of my bus driver hat into my eye ... and I couldn't wipe it off because "FIRE" position is like attention...

And taps started wafting up the hill and around the trees. And for some reason ... for the first time ... i actually ... HEARD it.

There's no reason you should know taps ... but, here are the words in case you one day get curious.

“Day is done, gone the sun

From the lake, from the hills, from the sky

All is well, safely rest;

God is nigh.”

And something about the way it pedaled up that incline, and rested between the crests of two hills ... bouncing back and forth on itself so that 'gone the sun' crashed softly into 'from the hills' and 'God is nigh' got hoisted up on 'all is well' ... caught in my throat. And for the first time I realized i was ... AT a FUNERAL.

And we were saying good-bye to someone who'd worn a uniform, possibly fought and killed for this idea of America.

And maybe he had a good experience, or a bad one.

Maybe he was a great leader of men, or a shitty supervisor.

Perhaps he saved the Pentagon money with his brilliant ideas, or maybe he was the moron who ended up demanding you buy crap you don't need the day before budget ran out because he didn't want his budget cut.

No matter who the enlisted or officer was ... this whole pomp and circus we were taking on the road every day was a trip that had been earned.

that Vet had paid in advance for the right to have me skip my unimportant job and go help move his casket from hearse to brass frame.

He'd earned a flag. A 21-gun salute. Taps.

And out of nowhere, I was crying. Not heaving sobs, just unwipeable tears at the "FIRE" position.

I'm not going to cry this Memorial Day. That once was enough.

I'm also not going to make any sort of political statement. Now isn't the time.

But I haven't ever felt that moment again, least of all on Memorial Day.

The holiday has been pretty much dumbed down to bar-b-q and baseball.

There are some 1,189,457* known American fatalities from our series of wars.

Pick one, and at LEAST roast a weinie to his or her honor.

I'm Air Force General Issue. Our tradition to the fallen involves part of verse three of our song:

Here's a toast to the host

Of those who love the vastness of the sky,

To a friend we send a message of his brother men who fly.

We drink to those who gave their all of old,

Then down we roar to score the rainbow's pot of gold.

A toast to the host of men we boast, the U.S. Air Force!

We say "here's a toast..." to our fallen comrades in arms.

On veterans day ... we celebrate the living. The men and women who have put on .. or wear .. uniforms in the nation's defense.

But Memorial Day is about the dead. All, 1-million plus of them.

To each of them, and every man or woman who knows to raise a glass ...

"Here's a toast..."



© Copyright 2011. justew enterprises. All Rights Reserved. This material may be used online, but not for profit. Attribution Required.

21 May 2011


Between 1831 and August of 1841, a baptist preacher in New England named William Miller developed a theory that the Second Coming of Jesus was prophesied to be in his immediate future.

He wasn't a crackpot, per se. Just a man who took his own insights into a few specific verses a bit more seriously than anyone ever should.

ok ... that's a crackpot.

At any rate, he was eventually joined by a former atheist named Samuel S. Snow. The two of them spent hours poring ... might even be fair to call it obsessing over a couple of Bible texts; most notably Daniel 8:14.

There was a time I could explain the logic they used -- I definitely spent enough time studying it. Alas, that information was killed by a half-keg of Soberana in the Great Panama Bash of '95.

I digress.

You've probably heard the story, or at least a version of it. By August of 1844, they'd checked and double-checked their math, painted their posters, and taken the warning to the Saints on the road.

October 22, 1844: the day Jesus WOULD return.

In a ... strangely comical -- although not laughable sequence of events, thousands of people bought into their melded math, tortured theology, and powerful preaching.

You know how this story "ends," -- even if you've never heard it before: their followers gave away all their worldly possessions, said their good-byes, and waited for the celestial ride to heaven.

Unfortunately for them, their pets, and their abandoned assets -- we can now generously say that "something was off in the math."

Nothing happened. Not so much as a bright flash in the New Hampshire sky.

The math was off.

History calls it the Great Disappointment. It even has its own Wikipedia entry.

If the story ended there, it would just be one of those sad side notes of America's religious legacy.

But this particular episode of Jesus standing up a group of true believers played a pivotal role in my universe.

A small group of the Millerites spun off their own franchise out of this experience. In the 167 years since, the Seventh-day Adventist church has grown into one of the most widespread Protestant denominations in the world.

Last Saturday, an estimated 25 million people in more than 200 countries attended a worship service in an SDA congregation.

For the first 20 years of my life, I was one of those millions. And I cannot imagine a better childhood.

SDA life is a rich tapestry of spirituality, community, and recreation. It has carved a unique and productive culture out of the human landscape. Its hospitals and school system are second-to-none. The people are warm, friendly, and loyal.

My love of music was born in Adventism. You have heard them sing--and loved it, even though you probably didn't realize you were listening to their special kind of soul.

As much as I loved the people, music, and culture of Adventism, there came a point in my life where the calculations weren't leading me to the right numbers. I realized I didn't believe what they believe. A separation was necessary.

The math didn't add up.

19 years later, I still count hundreds of Adventists among my circle of friends.

I wouldn't trade those Adventist years for anything. I wouldn't cash in those people for any other group on the planet, and I hope a couple of them will sing a song in my memory after I keel over and kick the bucket.

For the past few days, the nation has been focused on another crackpot promising he had run the numbers and identified today as the date of the rapture.

This time an 89-year old Oakland, California pastor named Harold Camping is cast in the role of William Miller.

According to Camping's math the holy were supposed to disappear at 6pm eastern time.

It's been a source of lots of jokes, and punchlines will poke out of this non-event until 2012, when we know the world will end because the Mayans whispered the planet's expiration date to us in rock calendars.

I've joked about the silliness of predicting the end of the world along with everyone else. And I DEFINITELY think it's funny in a Santayana sense.

But there are people out in our wild and crazy world who were quietly counting on Camping's calculations.

I silently tip my cap, and my ice-filled glass of vodka to what is undoubtedly THEIR day of Great Disappointment.

I hope their disillusionment leads to something down the road that's HALF as cool for some kid who deserves a kick-ass environment in which to become a freethinker.

And to that kid ... I can only say ... "watch the math."



GC Photo:
Harold Camping:

21 January 2011

Socks. A Health Care Story.

It was a pair of socks that turned me against our current health care system.

True Story:
It's fall of 2008. I'm in Prince William County Hospital, Woodbridge, Virginia -- the medical facility that tried to kill me.

I'm there with a chest full of pulmonary embolisms -- a baker's dozen blood clots spread across both lungs. They were a complication from surgery to reattach a torn Achilles tendon.

The hospital room was chilly, and my left foot was still in one of those immobilizing walking boots. Had to be elevated, which made my blanket too short to cover both my feet. The nurse comes in to check on me, and notices my 'good foot' sticking out at the bottom of the covers. She compassionately asks me if I'm cold. I say yes, and she promises to come right back.

She brings me a pair of socks. They are reasonably nice as socks go; cotton, gray, with little patches on the bottom to keep me from sliding around on the floor. I've seen similar socks since, at Wal-Mart. They retail for about eight bucks a pair.

I thank her for her kindness, and she rubs my arm.

I heal enough to go home, and later discover a pretty major insurance SNAFU. The paperwork shuffle sends the wrong documents to the wrong desks, and important deadlines pass. Ultimately I get stuck with the entire bill -- even though I was paying a significant amount to be "covered" before my accident.

Getting stuck with the bill meant I got to see all the charges. Almost $50,000 worth of individual pain-killing pills, Heparin, sleeping pills, meals, fees, and a $74.95 pair of socks.


Double-checked it, and yep. It was a real charge.

Line 47.
Socks, Non-Skid: 74.95

Made me a little sick at the stomach. Friends and family had brought me lots of things I needed. I'd forgotten to ask for a pair of thick socks, no big deal. It was an oversight. I would have survived without them for a night or two. And if she'd asked me if I was cold enough to want some fing $75 socks, I would have said "thank you, but no. I'll be ok."

See those socks at the top of the page? I'd pay $75 for those. Hell, Maybe even $100. I don't know if you can see it or not, but they're shiny. Got what looks like hundreds of rhinestones on 'em. Plus .. THOSE socks are famous! Worn by a popular musician in his heyday. If I wore THOSE, everyone would look at them and say "damn, bro. now THOSE are socks. Where'd ya get 'em?"

And I'd prolly blush a little bit, and tell a story that would make me cool. And I'd feel GOOD about paying $75 for a pair of socks.

Instead, the now tattered gray socks with the non-stick tabs make me queasy. And probably will until the day I die. I'm not throwing away $75 socks.


I listened to the health care debate for almost two whole years. I read all 2000+ pages of the bill Congress produced, and it makes me queasy too.

It is mysticism -- sort of like when religious people try to explain the plan of Salvation to me. I'm sure THEY understand it, but it's gobbledygook to me.

Here's MY solution, short and sweet enough to cram into ONE blog:

1. Allow everyone to buy a health care plan. Not just businesses buying for groups. Sell them in set amounts of coverage. $1M, $500k, $100k .. with varying deductibles. Allow anyone to sponsor them; businesses, churches, charities, private organizations, social clubs peopled by men named "Bob." Literally, anybody.

Also allow companies to sell term or life policies. Planning to skydive? Play semi-pro football on the weekends sans pads with your buddies? You sir, may need a $10M term policy, good for three years. That's gonna cost 'ya $10k/month ... OR you can gamble that gravity doesn't work, or Joe "wannabe-Brian Urlacher" Smith isn't coming across the middle to break your neck, and take your chances.

Now THAT money, is for catastrophic events. The things that we know will happen to each of us "eventually," that are completely fixable.

Heart attack? Insurance policy.
Rip your achilles playing parking lot pick-up ball when you're too old and fat? Insurance policy.
Having a baby? Insurance policy.

Insurance for all the mid-level stuff that's too big to fix at home, or with an outpatient doctor's office visit, but too small to require a second mortgage.

#2. Take away the mysticism of hospital pricing. One of the beauties that keeps insurance such a murky concept is that no one knows how much anything costs inside the doors of a clinic or hospital. Know why? Because there's no set price. They charge as much for EVERYTHING as an insurance company will pay. That's a recipe for two-way fraud and collusion.

Put up price lists.
Check-up: $20 (or $40, or $100 ... I don't care what an individual hospital charges for an individual thing, I only care that the provider and the patient both know it's cost/value at the beginning of the transaction..)

Cast for broken leg: $200

Allow Doctors to charge an hourly wage just like everybody else. Let me buy their time, and more importantly, their undivided attention.

Then allow them to explain my options with a menu that includes the prices, so I can understand the calculus and weigh the necessary vs. the luxurious. I'm not a moron, and neither are you. The doctor certainly isn't, so why can't we reason together about how far down the rabbit hole we want to go TODAY to figure out if I have indigestion, or esophageal cancer?

Plus, knowing how much something costs is an integral part of competition. Business slow? Let the hospital or doctor run a special; "back to school checkups, 40% off!"

Allow medical outfits to balance their books with supply and demand just like every other business in America. And let them actually get paid by the customer for their services, just like the grocery store, the gas station, and the morgue.

An outpatient procedure should not REQUIRE insurance. It also should not cost $10,000. It doesn't in lots of other countries.

I suspect, that you ... like me, get sick roughly the same number of times every year. You probably have since your 21st birthday. You could probably tell me, right now, within a range of 2 visits how many times you will go to the doctor or hospital in 2012.

That's something you can budget for, just like you budget for gas, and groceries, and new clothes. The most expensive item at the mechanic is only a few thousand dollars. And there's a mechanic on almost every corner in America. I cannot grasp why hospitals are so much different.

And when you have a procedure that WILL cost more money than you should reasonably be expected to have saved up for ... BLAMMO! You whip out that insurance policy, pay your deductible, and let the big boys pay for it... off the price list, not off some imaginary pay chart where gray non-skid socks cost $37.50 each.

Finally, there will be injuries and illnesses that nobody can see coming.

Your heart goes bad, and you need a transplant. Your child is born with a rare congenital condition that requires two years of in-patient care. You contract some off-the-wall virus from the crazy Outbreak monkey and we have to fly in Cuba Gooding Junior and Dustin Hoffman to race to the cure.

That's where I want Uncle Sam to step in. I don't need him to buy me an aspirin. I can handle that, if the price is cost + a reasonable percentage of profit. But if I need a new $20M liver, I don't mind having the rest of you kind tax payers chip in. And quid pro quo. I'll help out with your ten years of chemo if and when you require it.

I also don't mind if the hospital adds a few extra bucks to my bill that helps cover the people who can't afford care. There isn't a system that will cover everybody without it costing an arm and a leg. And as long as prices for the indigent are the same as what everybody else pays, I don't mind pitching in. I may need to tip in to the poor fund now and again, myself. Bad luck happens.

I acknowledge a couple of things. Becoming a physician is a difficult and expensive undertaking. In our system, they deserve to be paid well.

But they could be paid a bit LESS well if THEIR insurance rates weren't so absurdly high. In the current system, doctors get it from both ends. Bring down expense of care, and their malpractice rates plummet. Nothing helps inflate them quite like starting with a $50k patient charge for a hangnail procedure gone bad that ends up in court.

And the space-aged equipment American companies have developed is astronomically expensive. But that's true of a lot of industries. And I'm not so sure those costs aren't also tied to the collusion between insurance companies, big pharma, and big medicine.

I'm not a socialist (most of the time). I'm not a Communist. I'm just a guy who looks out at America and sees an over medicated country with horrible eating and health habits, and a medical system that is simultaneously underfunded, and overwhelmed.

This isn't capitalism. It's slow economic suicide.

That from a guy with ratty $75 socks on my feet.



P.S. I don't believe my plan is perfect. I don't think it solves all the problems. I DO believe it's implementable, without creating a new agency, or tacking another $10T onto a debt that's sinking a sunken economy. What would you change? How would you fix it? I already know that you're smarter than Congress. Prove it.

16 January 2011

Superhero Negro

We have turned Dr. Martin Luther King into a superhero -- and thrown away the key.

It's worse than prison; because without his unsolicited status he could have flaws, and make mistakes, and even be wrong on occasion.

That's not his lot.

Instead, some of the varnish flakes off when we look too closely. We 'discover' that Coretta wasn't the only object of his sexual affections, and take points away.

We hear his off-pulpit profanity, and try to juxtapose "motherfucker" with "I have a dream."

Its a fool's errand, because the same mind and mouth think and speak both extremes. The same brain and body enjoy the sex in both places. And the same intellect and intuition could see assassination coming, and admire a nice ass walking away.

We should be ashamed of ourselves.

If he were alive today, I wonder if Dr. King would see his role and historic speech at the March on Washington as the highlight of his life. If he were a movie star, I wonder if that wouldn't have been the blockbuster in a career that preferred small independent roles. I have a lot of questions about King. I admire him MORE now that his humanity shines through.

In ninth grade English Lit, Mrs. Mullenberg taught me that every viable hero has a tragic flaw. Growing up, I was never allowed to peek at the dark side of the Good Reverend Doctor.

Wasn't allowed to watch his stress build until he released it into some sexy Southern Belle he wasn't married to.

Couldn't acknowledge his anger spewing out in four-letter tirades among his closest friends. I am confident "the Movement" had its morons, and I wonder how he suffered them.

We have turned Dr. King into the Barbie Doll of civil rights; no genitalia, just a pretty face.

But the orator I have come to respect more is a multi-faceted MAN. A child of the 40s and 50s with warring spirits riding on each shoulder.

I can relate to THAT guy. One of MY angels covers his eyes with his wings about half the time. The other carries a pistol. And he ain't afraid to use it.

My man King is a man who could be distracted by pretty legs escalating into a plaid miniskirt while crafting a message that would change the course of history.

This is MY King. Not the superhero .. the man.

I have my differences with his philosophy. I abhor the use of children in warfare. It was his most effective tactic. I think "turn the other cheek" is a message of subterfuge crafted by men who plan to slap me. He found it a viable and controllable force of the universe, like gravity. I find pacifism degrading. He rode it to a place in history's Pantheon of greatness.

I am glad to live in the pool of promise made possible by his sacrifice.

I don't craft word pictures for the weak at heart. I don't write to make me feel good, or you feel better. I write because sometimes shit's got to be said. And I'm tired enough of the bullshit to say it.

I'm sick of the Superhero King. Tired of rehashing the Lincoln Memorial, and forgetting the Birmingham jail. Bored with fights over the holiday that don't ever reference the dog bites, and water hose bruises. I save my respect for the real guy who probably yelled at planning sessions, and held his own in the political in-fights, even if it meant crushing his opponents.

I like to read between the lines. And when I read the story of this phenomenal life, I see children left at home, fatherless for months at a time, while a bus line was being integrated.

I see a lonely, gorgeous wife -- married to an icon, when she might have preferred a warm body to cuddle up next to sometimes.

I see a church thrust into a harsh international spotlight by their baby-faced pastor when they might have preferred a Reverend who was in town long enough to visit the sick and shut in.

And I admire the, ... the, ... the, the SUCK it must have been to BE Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

Many people have asked what Dr. King would think about the 'black community' if he were alive today. Would he recognize it? Would he regret his role in its "progress."

I don't know, and he's not here to tell me. But my question is different..

If Dr. King were alive today, would he recognize himself? Would he smile ... or ... wince, at the Superhero Negro we have created in his image?

Happy Birthday, Dr. King. Can I buy you a beer?


09 January 2011

...and your silly death threats...

I had a fascinating exchange with a dear friend last night.
It was short, and cordial .. but important to me.

As I type, U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) lies in a post-operative intensive care room. A gunman put a bullet in her head yesterday morning.

His spree killed six people, including nine-year-old Christina Green and Federal Judge John Roll, 63. This morning's reports say 20 people are injured.

It is tragic to start a Sunday mourning.

But our conversation wasn't about grief. Sadness and anger are a given.

Our discussion was about timing. He has a view I respect, and understand to have some legitimacy, even as I disagree. I bring my point of view here; to my space, because it is on my mind this morning.

At issue was the timing of allusions to Sarah Palin during yesterday's chaotic coverage of the Tuscon violence.

He is a liberal, who despises her rise to prominence. But his perspective was that it is inappropriate to address the possible political undertones of an elected Representative being gunned down at a political event "before the bodies were even cold."

For what it is worth, he may be right. Mine is not a particularly political point of reference. My interest in the question goes to responsibility and how much accountability public figures have for their words.

On March 23rd of last year, Sarah Palin sent a controversial tweet to her 300-thousand plus followers:
Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" Pls see my Facebook page.
The issue at the time was a Health Care Reform Bill, now law, against which the the former Vice Presidential Candidate and Alaska governor was spearheading opposition.

I want to be up front about two facts:

1. I am not a supporter of Mrs. Palin. Her picture of America doesn't resonate with me. I find her voice shrill and irritating, and her words more often nonsensical than profound on any level.

2. I do not believe Governor Palin's intent with this tweet was to call for the execution of politicians. I believe she was using reload as a metaphor for not backing down from a political point of view; calling instead for re-engagement in the legislative fight.

That said, it was a poor choice of words. And the criticism was fast and furious.

Representative Steve Israel (D-N.Y.); among others, responded via twitter and a series of television interviews. His concern was the imagery:

Reload? @SarahPalinUSA Is your choice of words inciteful or ignorant?
For context, I ask you to recall that at that time there were numerous reports of personal threats to several Democratic lawmakers.

Death threats are common in America. I have always wondered about the people who make them. It seems a rather extreme response to go through all the trouble of promising to kill a person with whom you disagree. But yet, nothing controversial in America happens without allegations of threats to life.

Make a world-series losing error in game 7? Death Threats.

Say the wrong thing to the wrong crowd? Death Threats.

Vote an unpopular way on a legal matter? Death Threats.

Express an unpopular opinion on television or radio? Death Threats.

Run for President as a black guy? Death Threats.

Write a book with a contrarian view? Death Threats.

Dare to draw the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) in a cartoon? Death Threats.

The point of acknowledging these threats isn't that we expect every vow of violence to manifest in a sidewalk assassination. Rather, that collectively "we" have to be aware that these morons with the hair-trigger threat gene walk among us.

And we expect the grown-ups to be cognizant of their existence, because being a public figure in America means that your words tickle millions of hammers, anvils, and stirrups ... and some of those inner canals feed directly into brains where the chemicals aren't balanced just right.

In a nation that prizes free speech, we don't expect you to put out those fires of insanity .. but from your public platform, we do ask you not to fan the flames.

We expect President George W. Bush to stand on his bully pulpit and publicly say to America:

The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them. --20 September 2001

To his eternal credit, he delivered. The non-partisan in each of us knows this paragraph saved lives and prevented lynchings.

Rights and responsibilities are the peanut butter and jelly of American citizenship. One without the other is either too sweet, or makes your gums stick together.

So when Political King and Queenmaker Palin chose to follow her OWN advice .. reloading instead of retreating on the issue, she gets the whole sandwich.

I am not prone to hyperbole, so let's speak of facts. Double click on the image that accompanies these words. Make it bigger. Take off your partisan hat for a moment, and just look at it.

A map of my beloved country, with 20 targets. Not metaphorical targets; actually scope views of specific districts in which it is "time to take a stand."

Then it lists by name, the people to be targeted:
#4: Gabrielle Giffords, AZ - 8

She now of respirators and scars, critically hanging on to life at Tuscon's University Medical Center, thank you to a man with a gun who picked her event as an appropriate target.

If this poster were a CD album cover, pointing out police districts instead of political ones, and our Sunday mourning was for Officers, would there be calls for cooler heads? Calls to slow condemnation of the artist? Same poster, same outcome ..

How about a racial separatist group, from any side of that minefield -- calling for its members to "stand up" against pockets of whites, or blacks, or hispanics? If this were their poster, and we were lighting candles over a Jewish Center, or at an NAACP rally, or Republican headquarters, would we seek to slow down the anger before we called for responsible speech?

I do not blame ex-Governor Palin for the crime. But that's not the standard for behavior we promote. The standard is to not speak words that everyone so easily calls to mind when the idiots among us do something horrendous.

Imagine this: Mrs. Palin could just have easily said "return."



31 December 2010


Artists, Arise! We summon you.

Musicians and singers; dancers, painters and sculptors, writers, builders of useful AND unusual things, stretch your bodies and ready your tools. It's time for you to go to work.

Yours are the products that steady our spirits, and soothe our souls.

And we are communally cracked, bouncing toward broken.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! ummm, happynewyear? ... wait, ... happy. new. year. --- not quite.

happy new year ... I guess that's the one.

happy new year...

2010 leaves "us" more unemployed, more homeless, more precariously positioned, more tentative, and more collectively ... blah ... than many of his earlier siblings.

And it is art that will ultimately restore our sanity.

This year I have reconnected with more people from my past than at any time in my life. I welcome each of you. I'm glad to have you back in my universe.

It is my sacred personal tradition to offer a comment on each departing and arriving year. This particular transition finds me lost for words -- but vocally so.

Most years this blessing is a call to the Universe for pleasant things to come your way.

Not this time.

This year, a call for YOU to stand up, dust yourself off, introduce yourselves to the neighbors, and get to work. We must rebuild.

There is plenty to do. And to quote the lovely Alice Walker, "we are the ones we have been waiting for" to do it.

With that, my 2011 blessing:

As the new year sparks to life, I wish re-ignition of the fire in your belly. I wish it to warm, then glow, then crackle, then consume the excuses that may have kept you on the sideline and ultimately burn outward as unquenchable passion to make a difference. THIS is the year we need you to make progress on that thing you were born to do.

I wish you toward a desire for introducing yourself to others. We can spare no quarter to anonymity.

First, because there are scoundrels and scallywags among us. And every time they sit a briefcase or bag beside their chair and walk away -- it shuts down the airport. We need to start figuring out who they are, so we can return to keeping our shoes on when we travel to grandmother's house.

More importantly ...

We are surrounded by people in pain; real, tangible, gut-shredding circumstance and situation. We need to put names and faces to these trials, and stop pondering them in the abstract. It isn't "the homeless," it is Bill, his wife, and the three kids living in their Civic.

THOSE are two very different problems.

I wish for you commerce. Create something. And sell it or trade it for something someone else has created. Then make something else, and repeat the process. A song, a bottle of wine, a meal, a painting, a table, a loaf of bread, a cut lawn, a colorful knick-knack. These are the seeds of an assembly line, then a factory, then an industry, then an economy.

Neither Washington nor your State capitol creates jobs. Those come from people with a tangible "something" to market. And a "strong economy" starts with the thing you created.

I wish focus for you. I bless you with an eye for finishing the things you start. These are not times to leave business incomplete. You will drown in a boat half-bailed, lose everything to a fire half-extinguished, and starve in wait for a meal half-prepared.

I wish for you language. Our melting pot is flavored with many spices, and we have degraded ourselves to complainers about the combination, rather than savor-ers of the flavor. I encourage you to learn a paragraph not crafted from the alphabet of your youth.

Hierdie jaar, leer jouself om te sê goeie môre in 'n taal wat nie jou eie.


I wish for you an infinite supply of hugs and kisses. Not for your reception, but for your delivery. We need to resume touching each other. Texting isn't the same. It cannot replace a hug.

Artists: I wish your favorite muse to be captured at your side; rendered incapable of leaving you, and emotional in her captivity. I wish her to inspire you, cajole you, tease you, anger you, and propel you to your greatest works ever. You are our bulwark from these blahs. They would have us believe they are inescapable. You have the crafts to prove them wrong. First our survival (√) then our sanity ( ), then our stability ( ), and ultimately our success (!).

As always I wish you life, health, strength, a smile, great sex, a party, nutrition, a song, a good book, a circle of trustworthy friends, a cabal of wise counsel, a bushel bucket of hope, and a tougher tether to your elders and children.

We have lost many bright lights this year. People we admire and love have gone to the other side from every facet of public and many of our private lives. I wish this to remind you that ours is a temporary sojourn through this time and space.

We will not arrive the destination at the same time, but I wish us to all arrive "together."

happy new year ...


Photo: This year's photo is called "Father Time opens the gates of dawn which open upon the real world." That's not what I would have named it, but then .. I deal in words, not images. The artist's title DOES seem to capture everything he intended. If you like it, and want it for your living room, Art.com will be happy to frame it and send it to you.

01 January 2010

Twenty Ten

It is beyond habit, now; this annual sendoff and welcoming of the years. Greetings old friends, it is time for another New Year’s blessing.

New friends, this has become my annual tribute to the information age. Every year, as the final grains slip beyond the waist of the hourglass, and we prepare to flip it over, I look for a new representation of Father Time, and write a few words of blessing via blog to the peoples I call “mine.”

This year’s art was painted in honor of Chritiaan Huygens. It is described as Father Time holding a pendulum between cycloidal arcs instead of an hourglass. In the background Saturn with its moon Titan and ring discovered by Huygens. Travelers--you can find this piece in the Netherlands’ Boerhaave; the National Museum of the History of Science and Medicine.

This is the first time since beginning this tradition that I have the privilege of capping a decade, as well as a year.

This marks the fourth “decade,” or portion of a decade I’ve witnessed. It was by far my least favorite while having had the most long-term impact on my life.

I don’t mean just the way the Universe dealt with me, as an insignificant. That indeed sucked, but is of no real consequence. I mean the aesthetics, the music, the culture, the society, and the general ... aura(?) of the era seemed to never quite balance in the aughts.

For context; consider that here in America, we started the decade locked in a weird and bitter Presidential campaign that “ended” without the vote deciding the Presidency. Speaking from a purely non-partisan place, that’s just ... weird. It neither computes nor balances. And it almost perfectly illustrates what I’m trying to pin down about that space in time. It feels like “everything” in the aughts had a “not quite right” feel to it.

We all watched our first “live on network television” national tragedy that Tuesday morning. It didn’t feel real, but was on teevee. It was on teevee and didn’t feel like a soap opera or cable drama, either. It felt like ... being violated? watching helpless as someone hurt your child, your family, something you love dearly? For four days there was wall-to-wall commercial television with no commercials. Again with the “offness.”

Of course, that tragedy required us to fight two separate wars against very nebulous enemies; entities we just couldn’t quite pin-down, or identify. “Terrorism,” “al-quaida,” “radical Islamic extremism,” “insurgents,” were our new enemies, even though very few people have seen them, though hundreds of thousands have fired weapons in their general direction.

Lakefulls of ink have been spilt and shaped in defense and condemnation of these things. I am here to neither support or attack them as choices, today. I am simply an observer of the odd and subtle ennui that for me, epitomized the aughts.

The internet and social networking and cell phones and satellite information beamed to private houses for fee all came to maturity in this relatively tiny span of time. Yet, for most of the decade, it all felt like information without purpose. It was as if everyone suddenly had access to the equivalent of unlimited cash, with very little in the marketplace to buy. Toward the end of the decade, more usability started to emerge from the capability, and all signs point toward a very well integrated future for man, machine, and the knowledge matrix.

And then the economy turned on its heels and bit us--the hand that feeds it. Previously predictable real estate cycles turned into toxic asset pools, and global mega-corporations became welfare queens. American unemployment tripled seemingly overnight, and the deficit swelled past pre-Carter/Reagan era records.

And finally, mercifully ... we flip the hourglass and reset the numbers. We lose the confusing “what do we even CALL the era” bit, and enter the “20-somethings.”

My wishes for you are unusually simple this year.

And on this precipice, I stroke keyboard, and click mouse to offer them to you in this newly dawned age:

First and foremost I wish you solid ground on which to stand; days with specific milestones, goals complete with reasonable schedules, budgets with solid funding streams, and beliefs that are settled to your core. I wish for this new stability to completely permeate your environment, and ultimate our society.

Whether you look in the mirror and see a Conservative or Liberal; theist or atheist, pro-or-con, mac or PC, I wish your world to a perpetual state of rock steady. I bequeath you a universe where what is good for you comes bathed in light, and the evil is covered in shadow for easy recognition.

I wish you wholesome food; processed and prepared just enough to be at its freshest, ripest, and most nutritious.

I wish you water; pure and unbottled, that quenches your thirst fully and causes you to crave its healthy goodness like Pookie craved crack.

I wish you wine that bursts with flavor, color, and bouquet, made from grapes grown in vineyards filled with love.

I wish you beer and spirits perfect in their strength, and powerful in their effect, and for you a discerning conscience for moderation.

I wish you’d put the soda down. :-)

For the first time ever, I wish for you a PARTY; in whatever context that word conveys to your heart an ideal of being surrounded by good friends and laughter, participating in whatever activity engages everyone present to their betterment. I wish you celebrations to attend, and bless them to help heal the tears in your piece of our tattered communal soul.

I wish for you a perfect book; for some of you to write, and for others of you to read. I bless it word-for-word, and will you to its completion. I wish for it to touch your soul in an untouched place, and to spark your imagination AND inspiration to go forth and make the world you can touch and see a better place.

I wish for you one perfect song. I wish for it to be a song you can sing with your own voice, or play with your own hand. I wish for it to soothe your savage beasts on days where their hunger threatens to consume you.

I wish for you an argument that never ends, with a friend who is not threatened by the disagreement, about a subject that stretches your mind, and deepens the understanding between you.

I wish for you peace, and love, and joy.

I have no sacred powers with with to spark life into any of my wishes, but I do believe that the human soul is capable of speaking the desired into existence. It is with this belief that I humbly present this list of wishes for you with a word of encouragement to speak them into existence in the universe YOU inhabit.

We know that there will be sorrow in this year, and pain, and disappointment, and sadness.

But it doesn’t have to be the defining character of the time we fill.

And when we meet here to celebrate the arrival of the next baby New Year, I wish for us the satisfaction of knowing we helped shape and mold a better “we.”




13 December 2009


It is proper and appropriate to welcome new royalty. So, consider this my formal hello to Her Royal Highness, Princess Tiana.

It might seem odd that a manly man such as myself would make notice of a new animated character --even a Royal one. I'm not particularly keen on cartoons or animation. And in my writing, I tend to pontificate primarily about politics, and religion, and social issues of the day as I see them.

Which puts Her Highness squarely in my bailiwick.

It wasn't until AFTER I'd seen 'The Princess and the Frog,' that I fully appreciated the monumental nature of the moment to which Disney has acquiesced--namely the inclusion of a 'sista into the Pantheon of American Princesses.

Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's take a moment to review.

American has always styled itself a Democracy. (Ultimately, I take no issue with this self-declaration, notwithstanding that I've argued it is and has always been more of a non-tyrannical oligarchy.) As such, it is as least "odd" that the dream of virtually every little girl in our culture is to be a Princess.

This dream clearly doesn't come from seeing Royals on television, or from a constant telling of their exploits in American media. We have no King or Queen. Our leaders are Presidents, Senators, Governors, singers and movie stars. Until Representative Pelosi took the helm as Speaker of the House, one could have presented an entirely fact-based argument that the highest ranking position guaranteed to a woman is First Lady--a ceremonial title bestowed on the wife of the American President.

Yet somehow the most iconic image for little American girls is ... and for the past century at least, has consistently been ... the Princess. Barbie is who they want to be when they grow up, but "a Princess" is who they want to be NOW.

As a guy, I never appreciated the complexity or depth of this self-visualization process. My ... friend, Stefanie, was all Lady Gaga about taking her daughter to see The Princess and the Frog. Being a simpleton on the subject, I moronically asked "why?"

"Because she's the first BLACK princess! Duh."

Which immediately sent me into research mode, because I'm that kind of nerd.

And sure enough she was right.

A bit more background. The AMERICAN Princess myth belongs lock, stock, and barrel to the Disney Corporation. I've seen all the movies, but never really honed in on the Princesses. Disney counts eight Pre-Tiana. They are Ariel, Snow White, Pocohantas, Aurora, Cinderella, Jasmine, Belle, and Mulan.

{As with all things American, there is fascinating discussion and debate about why Pocahantas and Mulan are included (as neither ends up with a Prince), and why others are excluded despite seemingly Royal credentials, but entering that fray requires much more knowledge and much less testosterone than I typically carry in my purse. So I'll avoid that rabbit hole entirely. Disney says eight plus the newly crowned New Orleanian, so eight it is.}

Each of these fictional animated young women has stellar mythic credentials. They ALL begin with sterling American-styled character, usually hardened by misfortune or some undesirable circumstances. They are usually witness to great wealth and privilege, but not direct participants in the good life. The journey to princess almost always involves a quest that requires some leap of faith, and results in a radical transformation that ends with marriage to a Prince, and their ultimate ascension to Royalty.

This is an impressively lucid premise for a society with a scarcity of coherent comprehensive national mythology. I have no real frame of reference for how it compares to the presence of Greek, or Norse, or Roman mythology in the contemporary lives of the children from those societies. But here, with OUR little girls, Princesses rule! And Disney is the Princess-maker.

I have never even tried to visualize the power of these myths to how little girls see themselves. In fairness, I have never heard a little black girl say "I can't be a Princess because I don't look like those girls." But this particular quest HAS opened my eyes to the clarity with which little girls see not just the mythology, but the complexity and rarity of Princesses in "real life."

They "get" that Princes are few and far between. They understand that being rich doesn't make you a Princess, and they can even point out the evil stepsisters and characterless wannabes that walk among them.

So after noting back and forth a few times with Stef, I decided that it was important to take my Boy King to welcome Miss Tiana.

And I was blown away.

It wasn't "just" the movie; Disney has mastered the formula to the feature-length fantasy, I expect near perfection from a Disney flick, and Princess and the Frog is boilerplate "Waltic" harmony of music, color, and storyline.

It was the ... almost reverence with which they crafted the elements of authentic Princess-hood for this someday queen.

I think I was worried that they would shortcut her somehow. Maybe I wondered if they would make her some sort of Princess-lite; not as challenged as Cinderella, not as magical as Snow White, not as courageous as Mulan, not as pretty as Pocohantas, or just not quite ..."up" to Princess par.

The bias was CLEARLY with me. Disney crafted a story as true to the myth as any. Not only did they manage to not sell out the story, they managed to not sell out the wonderfully complex, uniquely multi-ethnic culture of pre-Katrina New Orleans (although I thought this film did a disservice to Cajuns. I happen to be very fond of the language, food, and music of these Bayou people.)

I took my seven-year old son into a theater packed with little girls to watch the Princess and the Frog.

He has always been taught that he is a Boy King, and that most of the hardest things I require of him are based on his ultimate responsibility to someday rule his domain. He had EXACTLY the response I hoped for.

He liked the movie.

That's it. Nothing else. No epiphany, no sudden awareness of its societal import. Just a "good movie, dad."

On some levels I am jealous of his world.

You see, for him a black President is no big deal. Black guys have ALWAYS publicly excelled at golf. There are black governors, CEOs, news anchors, supermodels ...

... and Princesses.




03 September 2009

Tim Wise: On White Privilege

For most of my life; at least since my early teen years, I've been "that" black guy. I'm the one who WILL discuss "race" with white and brown and yellow and blacker people. I ask them the race-charged questions from the barber shop, they ask me why brothas wore their pants hanging off their asses and why so many black people don't believe OJ killed Nicole.

And we talk.

Sometimes it's a discussion, other times an argument, occasionally a fight--but it's always a talk. And over the years I've come to appreciate those moments. I thought they happened to everyone.

They don't.

Anyone who's seen my friends list, knows that if I ever hit the lotto and have my "Equator party" around the world, the invite list is going to be a United Nations-looking, ghetto-fabulous/suburban-chic/farmer-rancher-gardener revival. I will serve kool-aid (red AND grape), water, juice, milk, beer, avena, champagne, wine, whiskey, sake, soju, and Olde English 800--which gets a category of its own. (But probably not soda, because it's bad for you!)

At very specific points in my life, I have been reminded again and again that "friendship" is much more important to me than "race." And I have been blessed to have a Rainbow coalition of friends; many of whom would kill or die for me, and I them--although I'm at an age where I'd much rather talk than throw 'bows.

My friends have saved my life over and over and over again--often with a word, sometimes with a deed--always at a moment where I did not have the strength, or the resources, or the clarity of thought to save myself. I love them for it, and hope to one day be able to repay those kindnesses.

But the questions still come, and I hope they never stop. When the track we (America) are on leads to its almost inevitable race war, I'll be at the front lines, trying to negotiate a truce that probably won't work ... but not for lack of effort.

Philosophically, my ancestors are the "Unforgiveably Black." I sip from the cup left by Nat Turner, Marcus Garvey, Jack Johnson, and Marian Anderson. Muhammed Ali had it right. And while I respect Booker T. and Dr. Martin, I ride with DuBois and Malcolm X. The color of my skin has never prevented me from going anywhere I've ever wanted to go, but once I get there, it hasn't been unusual to look around and discover I am a proverbial fly in buttermilk.

Danny B taught me that's when you start stroking. The exercise will make you stronger. It will also change your environment. Eventually, you'll churn solid enough butter that you can walk around on your own terms.

There are times you have to hunt to eat, and kill to survive. But I believe knowing this should never stop you from sharing a loaf of bread with a hungry soul, or weary fellow traveler who doesn't have the know-how or heart to pull the trigger for himself.

It is not lost on me that race still impacts millions of lives every day. I take this as an article of faith and refuse to believe that everyone stuck in a bad situation is there because they want to be. I've been there too many times myself to hold any other position.

Which brings me to a video brought to my attention by my friend, Tahnee. It's an excerpt from Tim Wise, posted on youtube by the Media Education Foundation. It's from a lecture series he does on White Privilege. He rather articulately presents an argument I've been having and making for decades, now. I encourage you to press play.

That done, what are your thoughts. This isn't a time to be timid, the stakes are too high. Do you agree, disagree, not understand, or not care about the point he's making? Is it still "too soon" for the conversation?

Is he speaking from some sort of fringe? Is he a lunatic? Is he an accurate historian from your perspective? Does his presentation mirror the conversations you've had around your dinner table or water cooler? Have you had an experience not reflected in his point of view?

I'm THAT guy.

The floor is yours.



27 July 2009

Letter of Reprimand


When two grown-ased, allegedly intelligent men find themselves in a fairly typical societal encounter, and cannot avoid escalation of said encounter to the highest possible denominator, it is a communications FAIL.

There is no right. There is no winner.

Professor Henry Louis "Skip" Gates: As a community elder, your behavior as described by you is unacceptable. We demand that as a highly regarded civic leader and respected intellectual, you hold yourself to a higher standard than your behavior on the afternoon of July 16, 2009. We expect you to embody proper decorum in ALL public interactions. Over the course of your life, you have earned the acceptance of our society on many levels. You stand as a living witness to the potential and accomplishment of black people everywhere. We accept you as a representative of your family, education, Harvard University, the cultural elite of Cambridge, Massachusetts -- one of America's most cultured townships, an international envoy from the descendants of American slavery to the globe, an authority on black literature and history, and bearer of the proud tradition of black men holding their heads high as they make their way through a system that is flawed, but trying to make itself more perfect. Your choices during this event were stupid and potentially dangerous. You KNOW better than to make reference to other men's maternal guardians--PARTICULARLY when you have cause to KNOW they are armed and angry.

From this day forward, "we're gonna need you to use your big boy words." You are hereby reprimanded.

Sergeant James Crowley: As a 17 year veteran of the Cambridge Police Department, you have accepted an active role in keeping the community safe from hurt, harm, and danger. Your understanding of the reality, perception, and potential dangers inherent in the long-standing relationship between law enforcement and various minority communities is well-documented and demonstrated. As a former instructor of the Police Department's policies on dealing with racial issues, we are dismayed that an Officer of your experience and street-smarts would fall for this particular version of the "okie-doke." Your role in escalating this from a routine 911 response call to a public relations debacle is duly noted, and not with a tone of appreciation by us. We can only assume that in this age of the omnipresent camera, and 24-hour media machine, the possible negative images of our fine Department cuffing a cane-carrying Professor for the "disorderly conduct" of impolite invectives hurled from his home, is not lost on you. We further condemn your unneccessary public refusals to apologize as adding fuel to the fire. If you aren't going to apologize, then don't. No further comment is necessary from you on that particular topic.

Form this day forward, we're gonna need you to take the latter portion of "protect and serve" a bit more seriously. You are hereby reprimanded.

It is our recommendation that you gentlemen take the President's invitation to have a beer in the White House as a gesture of racial harmony seriously. As a nation, and collective communities, we have more important issues to address, and we need the intelligence and contributions you BOTH possess as fuel for our continuing journey.

Professor Gates; there are ignorant freshman ready to be molded into informed citizens. Go play your position.

Sergeant Crowley; there is still plenty of crime to fight, go put your training and experience to good use.

Due to the joint demonstration of your combined ability to turn simple-assed conversations into potential racial flash points, drivers will be provided for you, as we don't need this ridiculous waste of our time to end in DUI's or foolish comments in front of our insatiable media.

One beer each. Budweiser, none of that fancy stuff. We're not trying to turn you into drinking buddies, its an effing gesture.

That is all.

24 June 2009

Saints with Stones.

Had I been raised Catholic, I'm pretty sure my mother would eventually be eligible for Sainthood. I speak with no sarcasm; I sincerely believe she'd survive the canonization process, and after a century or so be declared a Saint, and honored with patronage (or is it matronage?) of either elderly women, or felons. These are her causes.

I don't think she stands alone. Many of the mothers she has surrounded herself with over the years have been women made of the stuff that goes miles beyond basic high moral fiber. These are those who time and again have sacrificed literally everything they have for things only important in spiritual realms, tended the sick and poor when no one else would, and put up with all manner of bullshit people with a smile and a heartfelt promise to 'pray for them.'

Those of you who know me understand that I am agnostic. I have no idea whether there is a G-d, in the sense the Christians who surround me describe. But I do believe that the Universe answers when my mother prays. I have seen her stop storms, and avoid accidents, and rain healing on sickness, and once even pray me up from a C+ to an A- that can ONLY be described as miraculous--based on a test score that amazed even me.

These are serious credentials, and they form the image that comes to mind when I think of women who are walking ever more slowly through their last years of middle age.

Years spent watching the world through the lens of a Betacam have given me a 'different' perspective on video. I don't see things just "happening" when I watch real-life motion pictures, I see people. I smell things, and I imagine the emotions of the person holding the camera.

These senses add a dimension to the sounds and sights of video for me. I automatically default to the question of what has caused the operator to focus on this image, given 360 degrees of possibility. I try to envision what motives determine the instant they start and stop recording. I ponder the nearest stable surface potentially available to steady the shot. I sometimes question if they have the fortitude ... beyond the bravery required to stand still and push record ... to keep their eyes open as the image they are capturing spins into permanent imprisonment on the tape or disk inside the device.

The news junkie in me has been glued to twitter, and youtube, and http://www.huffingtonpost.com for more than two weeks now, as Tehran, Iran has been engulfed in a National protest of epic proportions.

I watched Neda die.

And even though that is the image that will most likely live forever as the touchstone of this moment in history, it is not the one that has seared me most deeply.

That image came Saturday, June 20th, at 4:04 ET.

I've been following the liveblog of a journalist--and if you know me, you know that's a title I don't give every person with a pen and tablet, particularly in the blogosphere--named Nico Pitney, who has been gathering and chronicling the sacred, sublime, and surprising moments of this event from the beginning.

At that moment, Niko posted the video that crystalized my opinion on events in Iran. Here's how he (and Chas, the reader) described it:
Here is another longer video with some graphic content near the end. Reader Chas sums it up: "Its a roaming shot of protesters walking toward a street corner where people are already clashing with the militia, Women hand them rocks on the way, and when they get there shots are fired and the crowd carries back a man who has been hit, and then the crowd retreats away from the scene, showing the blood of the man who has apparently been killed."
What followed was a video that is almost benign compared to some of the more graphic images oozing out of this newly christened war zone. It is precisely as Chas articulates.

I watched it. And women in burqas handed the protestors rocks as they walked toward an inevitable clash with the militia.

And I thought of my Saint Mom.

And I tried to picture the scenario where that gentle, kind, praying, weeping, helpful, honest, hard-working woman would hand me a rock to throw at the soldiers coming down the street.

And it hit me.

If that moment ever came, it would be right. I would take that rock, and walk toward whoever was coming; with their batons, and their guns, and their shields, and their tear gas, and their
fear, and their rage, and their orders, and their intent.

I would hurl that rock as hard as I could and pray the prayer of David to guide my stone and make it an instrument of death.

It was in that moment, as I watched this relatively benign little dispute on a tiny screen, happening in a country 6500 miles from me, that their mini-war became something more than a news event to me. The truth is, I don't care who won their election. I don't understand their politics, and have no vested interest in Mousavi, or Ahmedinijad, or Khameni, or Rafsanjani. I would not know the difference in a Mullah and an Ayatollah if that knowledge could ensure me eternal life with 40 virgins.

But among that group of rock-givers, I believe are some good women. One or more of those women would probably survive the canonization process, and after a century or so be declared a Saint, and honored with patronage (or is it matronage) of elderly women, or felons, or the downtrodden--because these are her causes.

And I would hope that in spite of my agnosticism; in a fight like this one, you would count me as accepting the potentially fatal gift from a Saint handing out stones.



23 May 2009


With his team trailing by two and :01 left on the clock of game two of the 2009 NBA Eastern Conference finals, Lebron James exits the time out with his nerves bunched into tight little knots you can almost see in his eyes. 

The 25,000 people who've paid a couple of days middle class salary to witness the moment unfiltered are stunned into an apprehensive silence. This is not Chicago, or Boston, or Los Angeles; those are cities forged and shaped into a persistent expectation that time is always on their side, and the coming miracle will arrive and twist fate to their favor. 

This is Cleveland, Ohio, USA; a world-class sports town known for an unconditional love of its professional teams. In the arena tonight sits a naive crowd; far more familiar with heart-breaking defeat than heart-stopping victory--and it shows.

Their team has done it again. "It" being blowing a huge lead to snatch apparent defeat from the jaws of certain victory. Now, their King must earn his prematurely awarded crown.

By now you have certainly seen the outcome. Number 23 plays possum at the free-throw line momentarily as the ball is handed to the inbound passer, then briefly feints toward the basket before breaking to 3-point territory at the top of the key as the ball is released in his direction. He throws a half-hearted right forearm shiver Hedo's way before catching the pass. 

The timekeeper pushes the button, reanimating time and restarting the countdown clock at ONE. 

The crowd catches its collective breath as Lebron spins, leaps, and releases the ball in a familiar and practiced motion, sending the sphere of rubber awkwardly toward the iron ring. 

The basketball catches on the inner far side of the metal cylinder at about the time the buzzer sounds, rattles around the rim, and drops through the net for a game-winning score.

The Cleveland crowd collectively exhales and erupts.  Mr. James spins on his heels and leaps into the arms of a teammate, and before the celebration can get a good head of steam, the pundits have already started their comparisons to His three-letter Highness, Air.

There is no minimizing this moment.  It is Hall-of-Fame worthy. This is the stuff from which legends are made. In time, Lebron James will earn his spot in the pantheon, and school-children will sing his praises and mark the milestones of their lives by his exploits.

But ... Jordan?

How quickly we forget. Let's rewind history for a moment for a quick recap of what made James and Deloris' offspring ... well, Michael Jordan.

Kobe, you might want to bring your trio of rings into the circle as well for this brief reminder:

The Jordan era begins in 1982, at the end of March Madness, when ... after Dean Smith led his Tarheel team past 62 OTHER teams, the college freshman Jordan dropped a game-winning buzzer-beater over Patrick Ewing.  

Now THAT'S how you create a lifelong rival! Rob the country's most heralded center of the first of what will be many, many opportunities to be a champion.

Lebron (and Kobe) entered the league with no rivals.  Nobody's out to avenge a college grudge, nobody has any deeply held bitterness. A win for Lebron is just a win; not the continuation of a decades long ass-whipping. Every year, Mr. Ewing had to not only face His Airness, he had to remember that this Jordan kid stole his college ring! You can pump yourself up to come back next year in the NBA, but where do you go mentally to recapture your Senior year at Georgetown?

Jordan finishes three years at North Carolina with great numbers, another accomplishment that counts in his legacy.  I have no knock on players that skip college for the pros. 

(C.R.E.A.M. "Get the money; dolla, dolla bills ya'll.")

But to compare skills between players is to look at ALL their accomplishments.  Without a NCAA ring in the trophy case, James starts off at a disadvantage against Jordan.

Air is drafted by the Chicago Bulls, who perennially sit somewhere between the middle and bottom of the NBA's Eastern Conference.  His first year in the league, they were below .500, made the playoffs, and got swept by the Bucks.

Kobe, there was also the spat during MJ's rookie season All-Star game that you can check-off on your "be like Mike" worksheet.  

All the vets (*cough* Isiaiah Thomas *cough*) were pissed that Jordan was getting so much hype, so they froze him out.  Sound familiar?

Anyway.  Season two was the broken foot, 38 - 52 record.  The Bulls make the playoffs again, and Jordan introduces himself to the casual fans by returning from the injury to drop 63 points against one of the top three NBA lineups in the history of the game; the 85 - 86 Boston Celtics. Everybody recounts that record-breaking performance.  Bulls lose the game. 

Nobody talks about the fact that the Bulls not only got beat, but the Leprechauns SWEPT them in that series. I've never asked Mike about this personally, but somehow I think he learned something important about teamwork that Sunday afternoon.

We're talking 20 year old history here, so my fellow old-heads will have to back me up as we recall what an fing juggernaut the East was back then.

During this era, an Eastern conference season meant you were playing against superstars in virtually every NBA city. Boston still had Bird/Parish/McHale, New York was NEW YORK, Philly still had Dr. J (though briefly) then Charles Barkley, Indiana had Reggie and the Dutchman, the Human Highlight reel was contorting himself to new replays every night in Atlanta, and you could buy t-shirts at any mall in America that said Detroit Pistons on the front, and BAD BOYS on the back. Cleveland wasn't a pushover, eventually Charlotte came to play, and Milwaukee sucked, but they could still make you earn a W.

Becoming "Air," meant developing a style that was flexible enough to take a pounding from Detroit one night, and out-hustling Boston the next.  This was no small feat. 

And that was just the East!

Travel west and you had to face Hakeem in Houston, the Admiral in San Antonio, a run-and-gun Portland, a competent Seattle, and the best pick-and-roll combo in the history of the game in Salt Lake City.  This was all just to earn the right to sell TICKETS to Showtime at the Forum; where the curtain raised every night on the most exciting brand of basketball ever offered at the professional, competitive level. 

Magic was likely on any given play to toss a patented, never-before-seen, no-look pass to James Worthy, who might drive to the hole ... OR ... dish to Michael Cooper who might drop one from two feet behind the 3-point line ... OR ... whiz a bullet pass up high to Kareem, who'd probably finish off a seven pass sequence with an undefendable sky hook from nine feet in the air.

No disrespect to the league OR Lebron, but the NBA just isn't that "kind" of good, or competitive anymore. 

Who, exactly is putting Lebron to the test these days?  The hapless Knicks?? Feisty Chicago? umm... the Wizards???  


As good as Jordan was, it took three tries to get past the Pistons.  That's how steep the competition was. 

Pundits: Lebron sweeps two teams in a row to get to the Conference Finals, and you want to compare him to WHO???  

Are you fing kidding me?

By 90 - 91, Jordan has literally transformed himself physically, just to prepare for the brutality of the inevitable series against Motown's Bad Boys. Every sports page in America had an article about the Jordan rules; a style of basketball specifically and unashamedly designed by Chuck Daly for his CHAMPIONSHIP team to beat one man.  Michael Jordan.

Where do I look in today's paper(s) for the Lebron rules? Just the other night, I heard Dwight Howard say "we just try to keep him out of the paint." 


That 90 - 91 season is the start of the first Bulls threepeat. 

Yeah, roll that around on your tongue a couple of times.  

First.  Threepeat.

Knocked off the Lakers, the Blazers, and the Suns. That's what the record books say.  But we who witnessed it, remember the all out WARS against the Knicks, and the Pacers, and the Cavaliers.

Oh yeah, and won an Olympic gold medal.

Then he retired to play baseball, which he kinda sucked at, but seemed to enjoy.

We're not even talking about the fashion impact, or celebrity status.  We're sticking to hoops here, but its worth noting that Lebron wears his shorts the way he does because MJ thought crotch-cutters looked stupid, and insisted on more manly attire.  And Air Jordan sneakers simply revolutionized high school footwear. 

I'm sure Lebron has a shoe contract, but I wouldn't know a Lebron basketball shoe if it walked up and put itself on my foot.  

I'm just sayin'

After RETIREMENT, Jordan came back to the game for his second threepeat.

Yeah, tongue roll time again.


Hit a triple double in the All-Star game, won 70 games, knocked off the Sonics, won 69 games, knocked off the Jazz, went to the absolute wall against Reggie Miller to get to the finals again ... immortalized the image of Bryon Russell as he knocked off the Jazz.  Again.

Six rings.  Two threepeats against the strongest, most competitive NBA to date. And just for giggles, let's consider the class of indisputable NBA Hall of Famers who cannot flash their championship rings at class reunions because of a little "Air,"

The late '80s Knickerbockers.  All of them; Ewing, Jackson, Starks, the whole gang of extremely talented ballers.

Drexler. Barkley. KJ. Thunder Dan Majerle. Wilkins ... both of 'em, although putting Gerald in this list is a bit of a compliment. Ehlo. Miller. Kemp. Stockton, Malone the Mailman who "almost" always delivered. Hornacek.

There are more, but this is a blog, not a book.

My beef is not with Lebron, but with those who would crown him the greatest prematurely.  By ALL accounts, young Cavalier #23 is among the premiere players in the league.  He is fun to watch, has an incredible sense of community and responsibility, and (with Kobe) is rising to the challenge of trying to put "air" back into the vacuum that is the modern NBA. He is incredibly talented, and will undoubtedly one day belong in the pantheon of basketball greats!

But legacy is not decided by talent alone.  It is not a purely statistical exercise.  The numbers count, but legacy is decided in direct competition against a field of worthy opponents. The league could improve, and Lebron may one day get to the level of "Air," but at the moment ... he is merely a talented, yet unproven superstar who had an amazing game-winning shot. 

Good Luck, Lebron.



Stew's Number