Feeling bad ain’t good enough

I have an inordinate affinity for little-known, minor musical artists from the late 60’s to early 70’s. Working for two record companies (you remember “record companies”, don’t you?) during that period only served to feed my obsession. I got to know bands who barely made it out of the warehouse. Most belonged there but some deserved a better fate.

Among my favorite obscurities are Stackridge (produced by the incomparable George Martin), Lindisfarne (pride of Newcastle), Emit Rhodes (the one-man Beatles), Roy Buchanan (the most soulful guitarist ever), and Ralph McTell (troubadour extraordinaire). Others, such as John Kongos, Seatrain, and Andrew Gold, are slightly better known but still vastly underappreciated. I exult in these musical phantoms.

The unfamiliar band that’s been in my brain of late is one McKendree Spring. (I’m not alone in my admiration. Legendary rock promoter/manager/impresario Bill Graham justifiably called them “one of the best unknown bands in the world.”) IMHO their third album, the aptly titled “McKendree Spring 3” is a masterpiece. What all this rambling is leading to is a song on that LP that has captured my attention and won’t let it go. Although included on the 1971 release, the song “Feeling Bad Ain’t Good Enough” couldn’t be more timely. It could have been triggered by yesterday’s news. Or today’s. Or tomorrow’s. Check out the chorus:

Feeling bad ain’t good enough now
For something you ain’t done.
Especially when the crazy man,
He’s reachin’ for his gun.

It has everything but the #enough. Feeling bad isn’t good enough. Nor are your thoughts and prayers, although I believe in the power of prayer.

The early date of the recording and certain lyrical references (“What was that voice from the tower; what was it trying to prove?”) indicate that the song could have been inspired by one of the early mass shootings in this country, that of the University of Texas Austin tower sniper. It’s sad to think that, in the 52 years since that tragedy, we’ve become inured to these events. In fact, we expect them now. A handful of people killed by a lone shooter barely makes a ripple in the mud puddle known as the evening news. In spite of the fact that mass shootings have escalated along with gun ownership, the powers-that-be continue to rant that more guns is the answer. Rather than fight back, our spineless lawmakers grovel before the nation’s largest terrorist organization, the NRA.

#enough

Ernestine’s new gig

Many moons ago, in the 70’s, the brilliant Lily Tomlin created one of the most memorable characters in comic history. Ernestine was an operator (remember them?) working for the long-lost but never lamented AT&T (remember them?) back when they held a monopoly on electronic communications in this country. Back in the day, they were known simply and unaffectionately as “the phone company”.

 

Ernestine had an annoying (but very funny) habit of telling her customers, “We’re AT&T. We don’t care. We don’t have to.” Indeed that was the case until the monolith was broken up into little “baby Bells” by a decree made on Jan 8, 1982. Yes, that was 36 years ago. Since then, they’ve shriveled into less than a shadow of their former selves, as an also-ran cell service.

But in their heyday, they held all the marbles while we, the phone using public, lost ours. Things have certainly changed…

Or have they?

The good news is that Ernestine is still at work. Having been laid off by the phone company, she now works for a new firm whose power and grip on our society makes it a perfect fit for her particular brand of customer service. If you had a chance to eavesdrop on her workday, you’d likely hear something like this:

One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingies. Gracious me, hello. Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking? This is Ernestine at Google. Are you the one with a problem with Gmail? Gmail is so much trouble, isn’t it? That’s why I always use the phone. <<snort, snort>> Goodness me, no, not an Android. They’re worse than email. <<snort, snort>> You want to know what’s wrong with Gmail? If you figure it out, let us know. <<snort, snort>> That’s what we call customer service. We let our customers do all the research and fix each others’ problems. <<snort, snort>> Better yet, once it’s working again, send the solution to a friend in an email. We’ll get it because we’re always monitoring your messages anyway. <<snort, snort>> What? Privacy? What’s that? <<snort, snort>> Oh, you’re a hoot, sir. In fact, we here at the office want to thank you. We all got such a charge out of the very colorful language you were using while you tried to get used to the buggy new calendar app we forced on you without your permission. What’s that? QA? Gracious me, who needs QA? What do you think we have customers for? <<snort, snort>> Oh, and we hope your UTI has cleared up. Don’t you hate it when streaming doesn’t work? <<snort, snort>> How did we know about that? What do you think that Google Home device you have on your counter is doing all day, meditating? <<snort, snort>> You don’t want us listening in to your personal conversations? We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re Google. Or Alphabet. Or whatever we want to call ourselves today. The stock will go up anyway. <<snort, snort>> What? You want to know how you can talk to my manager? Search me! <<snort, snort>> Get it? Search… Hello? Hello? Oh, my. Another satisfied customer.

Nice to know Ernestine’s core competency is still being effectively leveraged.

A Slippery S***hole

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that I, as the author of a book about Haiti, am disgusted (but hardly surprised) at America’s racist-in-chief’s reference to Haiti as a “shithole”. In fact, the opening of my book implies a lack of knowledge that non-Haitians (“blans” as they call us) have about what in my eyes is a beautiful, if slippery, land.

I’ve reproduced the opening paragraphs of the book here, where we are introduced to the protagonist, Fania, and her country:

Fania lived in Hell.

Not that she was aware of it any more than the fish in nearby Baie de Port-au-Prince knew they lived in water. It was only to outside observers, none of whom Fania had ever met, that Haiti resembled a place of unending suffering and torment. They saw only crime, poverty, hunger, and homelessness in a recurring cycle of tumult. To them, it was an abyss of despair where nothing changed except the players in a tragic theater of misery.

To Fania, it was home.

And isn’t that the point? No matter how we view a nation from the outside, be it Kenya, Rwanda, El Salvador, Haiti, or any impoverished country, it is home to people, real people. Human beings no different than us. Like us, they try to live their lives, help their families, and contribute to their communities. This simple truth is beyond some people, but few miss the point with the profound ignorance and flagrant hate of the POTUS poser.

I’ve already written about this atrocity in my other blog. If you are so inclined you can read my diatribe here. Better yet, read the words of one who is infinitely more eloquent, the brilliant Haitian author Edwidge Danticat. You can read her assessment here. The intellectual, moral, and overall character gap between Ms. Danticat and the simple-minded bigot who runs this country is too wide to measure. The voice you and I listen to tells a great deal about our characters.

Start moving now!

The lazy way out of writing this post would have been to simply make a link to the latest post in my other blog because this is little more than a reiteration of what was written there. But that little more (buttressed by my overdeveloped sense of responsibility) is enough to justify a few original words.

Until the new year hit, I hadn’t written anything in months except these posts, and these were dwindling down to a precious few. (Did anyone notice?) As for more substantial written efforts—novels, screenplays, even short stories—that wasn’t happening. I was giving serious consideration to chucking the whole thing. (Who do I think I am to call myself a writer?) Motivation was MIA, but there was no A to speak of.

Then the fortune cookie crumbled. (q.v.)

On top of that, I’m reading a book called “The Last Arrow: Save Nothing for the Next Life” by Erwin Raphael McManus. McManus, one of my favorite writers, has a way of getting under my skin and into my soul to inspire and challenge me like no one else. This book is no exception and the timing was perfect.

Bottom line (literally): I have to write something. In fact, a few things. Watch this space for updates.

Don’t Yank the beard!

It’s my blog. I can rant every now and then. I don’t do it that often, but sometimes the pressure gets to be too much.

I’m so grateful the New York Yankees aren’t in the World Series this year. I hate to see them there anyway, just on principle. (I’m a baseball fan. It stands to reason I’d dislike the Yankees because they ruined baseball with their extravagant spending habits.) But these days it means so much more. Why? Because Yankee players, a group of (mostly) adult professional athletes, must conform with the team’s asinine and childish “appearance policy”:

All players, coaches and male executives are forbidden to display any facial hair other than mustaches (except for religious reasons), and scalp hair may not be grown below the collar. Long sideburns and ‘mutton chops’ are not specifically banned.

What is this, a 1965 middle school??? What kind of pathetic excuse for an adult male (note that it says nothing about women’s facial hair) lets himself be suppressed like that? Oh yeah, this kind:

Nearly every player on both the Astros and Dodgers takes advantage of their freedom to express themselves creatively through their grooming or lack thereof. And they make the game that much more fun. If those teams had such an archaic and repressive rule, we’d miss out on these cool-looking dudes:

 

 

 

 

Even the relatively conservative Mr. Verlander would be persona non yanqui.

Instead we’d be subjected to the likes of these clones:

Yikes! They look like dropouts from a cut-rate accountancy school, where they could have been voted most likely to frighten small children. Do you suppose their straitjackets have pinstripes, too?

I’m not complaining. As long as the Yanks continue that nonsensical policy instituted by their former tyrannical psycho leader, George Steinbrenner (forerunner of the current tyrannical psycho leader of this country), many very good, self-respecting players will never play for them, thus keeping them out of the World Series for the foreseeable future.

And that is something to look forward to.

Thoughts between the storms of life

Life takes up all my time. Even weekends. That’s why I’m often reduced to dumping collected thoughts into posts just to meet my arbitrary weekly deadlines. Thus, here are some dead lines for this deadline:

Why isn’t postcocious a word, the opposite of precocious? It would apply to those who demonstrate an immaturity beyond (before?) their years. No one I know fits that description… outside of that guy in the mirror.

Whenever I watch a movie on DVD, I have to endure the declaration that “Piracy isn’t a victimless crime”. Tell me about it. I just wasted 10 seconds staring at the message.

I love my library. And I love my librarians. Still, I have to ask, how scientific is “library science”?

How lame is it when the news anchors blame the weather forecaster for bad weather? They don’t blame sportscasters when their teams lose. I hope one day to see the weather guy turn it around. (“Hey, Jim, when are you going to stop this rain and send us some sunshine?” “As soon as you stop all those mass shootings, Mary.”)

There are 2 kinds of people in the world: those who separate people into two groups and those who don’t.

Some say there are 10 kinds of people: those who understand binary and those who don’t.

I wish I had a nickel for every empty bottle or can I see thrown on the side of the road. Wait…

Most house fans I’ve owned turn on at the highest speed. Dumb. That’s like a radio with an on/off dial that starts at the highest volume.

Remember when we worried about privacy? We’ve sacrificed it on the altar of social media. As Keith Lowell Jensen wisely observed, “What Orwell failed to predict [in his book “1984”] was that we’d buy the cameras ourselves, and that our biggest fear would be that nobody was watching.”

I was at a food truck event not long ago and took this picture:

When I blow that picture up (below) you can barely make out a disturbing sight in the background: Yes, that’s a bloodmobile. Evidently, they were expecting vampires at this event.

What’s with all the moving graphics?? Watch news or sports on TV and count the number of moving graphical objects on the screen. My ADD nature causes me to watch them obsessively and miss whatever is going on in the program. One more reason I don’t miss “news” broadcasts.

Seeking donations

Don’t you love a straightforward title that tells you all you need to know about whether you want to read a post? Against all conventional marketing wisdom, I’ve used one here. The wiser thing to do would be to entice you to read on by using nonsensical and misleading expressions such as “free food”, “sex”, and “make America great again”.

Not my style.

The bottom line is the bottom line: I’m looking for compassionate people to support the fight against multiple sclerosis, a very personal fight for me. Every year I participate in a fundraising bike ride. Rather than bore you with the details here, I’ll point you to the web pages that will bore you with the details. (I’m a lousy salesman, aren’t I?)

Read more about the ride here.

Donate to my ride here.

Donate to my team here.

That’s it. No wasted time, effort, or keystrokes. Thank you for considering this request.

The New Colossus of Fear

Emma Lazarus’s poem, “The New Colossus”, which adorns the now-obsolete Statue of Liberty has to be replaced. It currently features the following lovely but oh-so-naive sentiment:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

As a replacement, I humbly offer the more appropriate “New Colossus of Fear”:

Not like the wimpy statue that’s so lame,
That oversized chick draped in a green sheet;
Here to protect the cash on Wall Street
A macho man with a gun, whose aim
Will waste the bad hombres, and his name
Tyrant of Fear. From his weapon-hand
Shoots world-wide warning; we’re taking a stand
We’ll blow you back to hell whence you came.
“Keep to yourselves, you strangers all!” barks he
With bared teeth. “I’m tired of your lazy poor,
Your stinking masses with skin not like me,
If you’re here, will throw you out the door.
And to keep you foreigners out, you’ll see,
We’ll build a wall that you’ll pay for!”

It won’t make anyone forget Longfellow (or even Ogden Nash) but you must admit, it accurately captures the new, heinous “normal”.

God have mercy…

Bring back the Underwood

underwood

Just bought a new laptop. I have a sudden desire to get an Underwood.

I’m no Luddite. I appreciate advances in technology. My phone is invariably with me and my audio/video system, while on the duller edge of the curve, has brought me plenty of enjoyment. Technology can make us more productive in many fields. It can also be a lot of fun. The problem is, the leading edge is too far ahead of me. It even leaves itself behind at times.

Have you noticed that, with each advance, we lose something? Few would choose to go back to analog recordings, but Neil Young is right when he decries the subtlety lost in the digital recordings we all use now. More is lost in the compression algorithms used, whether for audio or video. (Can you spell MP3?) Plus, we’re watching films on 3 inch phones that were intended for acre-size screens. One step forward, two or more back?

Like most computers, which are no longer used or useful for computing (or writing), cell phones fail at their original raison d’etre. Yeah, they’re great for lots of things—texting, browsing, reading—but between dropped connections, poor reception, speech delay, and butt calls, their suitability for talking to other people is debatable.

Matters grow worse as I age. The value of high-def TV and audio is lost on my low-def eyes and ears. As devices get smaller, the controls necessarily do as well. My fingers weren’t meant to manipulate buttons the size of boogers.

As a writer, I’ve already chronicled my frustrations with the modern computer in this post on my other blog. (It would have been more appropriate in this forum, but I hadn’t started this blog yet when I wrote that in 2014. Consider this my atonement. Please note that I predicted the rapid deployment of landscape-format web sites.) Those complaints remain valid. And since that day, no one has yet come out with the “writer’s laptop” I asked for. I suspect no one will.

I want to write.

I don’t want moronic games.

I don’t want to remove your bloatware.

I don’t want to learn new versions of software every six months.

Have I made myself clear enough yet? I’m a writer. I want to write words.

Don’t even get me started on Windows 10. Heaven help the writer.

Haiti seven years after

Does the seventh anniversary of the earthquake that ravaged Haiti mean so much to me because I wrote a book about it? Or did I write a book about the Haiti earthquake because it meant so much to me? One can never be 100% sure of one’s own motives but I’d be dreadfully disappointed in myself if there were even a hint of truth in the former.

Rather, I hope I wrote a book about Haiti because of my love for the nation and its people. Exposing others to the truth about a place so badly misunderstood is one of my missions in life. Thus, it’s appropriate to keep the nation and its plight in the forefront of peoples’ consciousnesses, whether through a blog or a photo or a book.

Never forget.

proudhaitian

[This is important enough that I wrote a much longer post in my other blog. You can read it here.]