Stevie Wonder: Prophet

It’s patently obvious that Stevland Hardaway Morris, a.k.a. Stevie Wonder, is a musical genius. I can’t think of many people in history who have created such an extensive catalog of brilliant music. Three consecutive albums of his won “Album of the Year” Grammies, a feat never achieved before or since. I’m just scratching the surface of his prowess, both musical and personal. Scan his Wikipedia entry for more details of his incredible contributions.

It boggles my mind to think that one of his masterworks, the album “Innervisions”, my personal favorite, was recorded when he was only 23 years old!! (What were you doing at 23?) Not only was it an outstanding musical tour de force, it also revealed one of his heretofore unknown gifts, that of prophet.

Read these lyrics from the great song, “He’s Misstra Know-It-All” and tell me whether this guy precisely described our 45th president 43 years before he was elected:

He’s a man
With a plan
Got a counterfeit dollar in his hand
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Playin’ hard
Talkin’ fast
Makin’ sure that he won’t be the last
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Makes a deal
With a smile
Knowin’ all the time that his lie’s a mile
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Must be seen
There’s no doubt
He’s the coolest one with the biggest mouth
He’s Misstra know-it-all

When you tell him he’s livin’ fast
He will say what do you know
If you had my kind of cash
You’d have more than one place to go
Ooh

Any place
He will play
His only concern is how much you’ll pay
He’s Misstra know-it-all

If he shakes
On a bet
He’s the kind of dude that won’t pay his debt
He’s Misstra know-it-all

When you say that he’s living wrong
He’ll tell you he knows he’s livin’ right
And you’d be a stronger man
If you took Misstra know-it-all’s advice oh oh
Ooh

He’s a man
With a plan
Got a counterfeit dollar in his hand
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Take my word
Please beware
Of a man that just don’t give a care no
He’s Misstra know-it-all (look out he’s coming)

Dum bum bum ba bum bum,
Dum bum bum ba bum bum
Bum bum bum bum bum say
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Can this line, take his hand
Take your hat off to the man who’s got the plan
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Every boy take your hand
To the man that’s got the plan
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Give a hand to the man
Don’t you know he’s got the plan
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Give a hand to the man
You know damn well he’s got the super plan
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Give a hand to the man
You know damn well he’s got the super plan
He’s Misstra know-it-all

If we had less of him
Don’t you know we’d have a better land
He’s Misstra know-it-all

So give a hand to the man
Although you’ve given out as much as you can
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Check his sound out
He’ll tell it all
Hey you talk too much you worry me to death
He’s Misstra know-it-all

(Although I’d never noticed this until hearing the song recently for the first time in a long while, I’m not the first to make this connection. It bears repeating, however, because it serves us all well to (1) be reminded of Stevie’s brilliance and (2) further expose the target of these lyrics as the scoundrel he is.)

Mixed Messages

Saw this sign on the side of a building during a recent bike ride:

Okay, I’m good with that. I’m a massive proponent of supporting local businesses.

But wait! Pull back a little and we see the bigger picture:

What am I supposed to do with this cognitive dissonance? Subway spreads like a deadly pandemic across the face of this country. Fine. Let Iowa, Florida, and New Mexico have their nasty, mass-produced, generic sandwiches. But here in the Boston area, home of some of the best local sub shops east or west of Tuscany, Subway is unnecessary at best, a cancer at worst, eating away at our culture like the rot slowly consuming the shack in this photo.

Run away! Run away!!

The NFL’s Priorities

The NFL’s Cleveland Browns signed Deshaun Watson. He didn’t play at all in 2021 and he faces civil lawsuits for sexual misconduct from 22 different women. He has lost endorsements from Nike and Beats. But the Browns, perennial NFL bottom dwellers, believe in him.

Now, it’s possible that every one of those accusations is false. It’s as likely that Donald Trump will win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Watson’s resume includes exactly one playoff win. He has never made it past the first round of the NFL postseason.

Meanwhile, Colin Kaepernick, who had the gall to exercise his constitutional right to protest this nation’s continued oppression of African-Americans, can’t get a cup of coffee in the same league. Here’s a guy who has a 4-2 record in the playoffs with one Super Bowl appearance and he can’t get a job in a league with an overabundance of poor and mediocre quarterbacks.

In other news, the Cleveland Browns have announced they’ll be playing reruns of “The Cosby Show” during the halftimes of their games.

Happy First Day of Spring!*

Today, March 1, is the first day of spring. Many will deny this, claiming that the first day of spring is somewhere in the 20’s of the month. That’s fine if you’re into stars and constellations and such. If you care about the weather, however (and for what other reason would we anxiously anticipate the season of rebirth?) you celebrate the start of the season on the first day of March.

The fact is that March 21 is the vernal equinox, the first day of astronomical spring. But who cares about equinoxes or astronomy?!? What we (or, at least, I) care about is the weather and that means meteorological (that’s weather, folks) spring, which begins on March 1.

Happy Spring!

(See this article for a full explanation.)


*This brief post marks the debut of Blog Snax® q.v.

How Charles Saved Christmas

There’s a school of thought that credits Charles Dickens, more than any other, with creating the Western version of Christmas as we know it today. (Read more about it in this post from seven years past.) There’s truth to that, but another Charles has done an even greater service to the season. And he used yet another Charles (actually, a Charlie) to do it.

Imagine the 4th of July where no one mentions the Declaration of Independence, the revolution, or even the USA. Or Memorial Day without a reference to veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Arbor Day without trees or Thanksgiving with no gratitude. Even worse, your birthday without mentioning you!

Unthinkable, right? Think again.

No matter your religious affiliation, it’s hard to argue that removing the birth of Christ from the celebration of Christmas isn’t blatantly unfair and patently illogical. It’s also impossible to deny the truth of it.

I went Christmas shopping yesterday. In one store, there was a display of (supposedly) Christmas ornaments. Among their number were included:

  • A Dallas Cowboys football player
  • Grogu, the baby Yoda from The Mandalorian
  • A nutcracker wielding a candy cane as a weapon
  • the Stay Puft Marshmallow man
  • Harry Potter memorabilia
  • Spiderman
  • vehicles of all shapes and sizes and colors
  • Mario and Luigi
  • a lamp made from a shapely leg in fishnet stockings

…and a whole host of other cultural icons, many of which didn’t exist ten years ago and will be forgotten ten years from now.

I don’t question the cultural appropriateness or whimsy or profitability of any of those. They have their place. However, am I a Scrooge or, worse, a right-wing ideologue to ask why there wasn’t one single reference to the events that got this whole snowball rolling in the first place? To put things in perspective, I searched the online list of the 1,126 “Christmas” ornaments sold by Hallmark, purveyor of those insipid Christmas “romance” films, that I confess to watching. It turned up exactly four that had an explicit reference to the Nativity. Sure, there were snowman angels and Precious Moments cuties but only four that referenced Jesus, and then only barely.

That brings me to Charles and Charlie. For over 70 years, “Peanuts”, the comic strip and characters created by Charles (Schulz), has been a staple of American culture and Charlie (Brown) has been its greatest symbol. Back in 1965, those two put a stake in the snow that has since been the sole standard bearer for the cause of “keeping Christ in Christmas.” They didn’t do it by whacking us over the head with a Bible or a Yule log, nor by scolding or judging the culture. They did it with a little boy clutching a security blanket and telling a simple story that has changed the world more than any other event in human history.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

I shudder to think what Christmas in America would be like without Charles and Charlie.

An Amazing Post!

Tears for Fears once sang “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. A great song and an audacious claim. I believe there’s some truth in it, though. Few would admit it but I believe there’s a little part of everyone that wants to control everything. Maybe it’s the frustration of knowing we actually have very little control over anything in our lives. Controlling something would be a step in the right direction. Or so we think.

I’ll confess that more than a little part of me wants to control more than just a little part of the world. I’ll start right now with my first decree:

The word “amazing” is banished from use forthwith!

Yes, “amazing” is the latest in a long line of words that have been so misused and overused that they’ve ceased to have any meaning. Thus, it must be removed from the lexicon. It has joined the rogues’ gallery of words and phrases that are mutilating our discourse. Others, such as “awesome”, “like”, “literally”, “actually”, “just”, “really”, as well as beginning sentences with “so” for no apparent reason, will be dealt with over time. They must all go and they will when I’m in control.* (In the interest of full disclosure, I’m guilty of leaning heavily on all those verbal crutches.)

Back to “amazing”…

Listen. You hear it everywhere. This movie is amazing. That restaurant is amazing. Some team, book, or blog (!!) is amazing.

Worst of all is when someone calls you amazing. After all, what is being said about you? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Assuming (and this is a huge stretch) the speaker is truly amazed, it says one of two things. Either they have a low level of amazement (I vote for that one) or something about you is truly amazing, for better or worse. And that’s the key point. There is no value judgment in the word. It’s not saying anything positive about you. Kind of like the doctor in the Seinfeld episode who calls both Elaine and an ugly baby “breathtaking”.

The subprime mortgage debacle was amazing.

“New Coke” was amazing.

Hitler was amazing.

Donald Trump is amazing in his own way. (And it’s not a good way.)

So, I literally think we should just… Ignore that. Let’s dispense with the word altogether.

While we’re at it, how about the current addiction to swearing? When I was in high school, there was a poster on the wall in the guidance counselor’s office. It read, “Profanity is the attempt of a weak mind to express itself forcefully.” That’s the only thing I remember from any guidance counselor, but it’s a maxim worth thinking about. Because they’re so ubiquitous, those words have little or no shock value remaining. There was a time when dropping just one of them in a routine guaranteed a favorable reception for a comedian. (Just ask Albert Brooks about his experience in San Antonio.) Not anymore. They fall with the frequency of snowflakes in a blizzard and with the same effect. One alone simply dissolves into nothingness. Pile on enough and conversation comes to a standstill, buried in inanity.

Rather than be heavy-handed about this whole thing, I propose making it into a game. Everyone in the US will be issued a buzzer from the game Taboo. Just like in that game, anyone will be allowed to buzz anyone else who utters one of those verbal pariahs. Speakers will stammer and struggle to avoid the rejected phrases as they do in the game, beginning every sentence saying, “Um, this is a thing that you might, um, literally…” BZZZZZZ!! How much fun will that be?

No more meaningless words, lots of buzzing. Win, win!

Vote for me.


* The alert reader will note that my list doesn’t include the verbal tics we hear and use constantly: I mean, kind of/sort of, really, y’know, um, uh. Stamping those out would cripple most people conversationally, including me. There’s no need to do that.

Yet.

Quick opportunity announcements!

There are two opportunities coming up imminently that I want to share:

100th Anniversary Celebration!

My paternal grandparents, whose story inspired my novel “A Song in the Storm”, were married on September 11, 1921. We’ll be celebrating the 100th anniversary of their marriage with anyone who wants to join us at the Old Mill Coffee House in Chelmsford, MA, from 1-3 PM.

We’ll have a cake to share and delicious coffee (or so I’m told; I don’t drink the stuff 🙂 ) and baked goods will be for sale in the shop, as will their usual assortment of excellent locally made products. Do I need to say that copies of my books will also be available for sale?

Support the battle to destroy MS before it destroys anyone else!

On Saturday, September 18, I’ll be doing my annual fundraising bike ride to fight the scourge of multiple sclerosis. If you’d like to support me or my team in this effort, click on one of these links:

Support Rick

Support The Vineyard Square Wheelers

As you’ll see on the web site, this ride, normally held on Martha’s Vineyard in the spring, will be in Concord, MA, because of Covid.

Covid or not, MS continues to ravage lives, so we don’t take the year off. Please consider sponsoring us as we ride to destroy this destroyer of lives.

The other pandemic

We’re all about coronavirus for the past year and a half. Something most of us had never heard of or considered before 2020 is now the fulcrum on which everything in our lives turns. Our conversations invariably revolve around the pandemic, the Delta variant, masks, and vaccines. Yet, there is another pandemic sweeping through our land whose effects are equally tragic. I’m talking about…

The Obliviousness Pandemic!

Yes, obliviousness has taken our country, and possibly the entire world, by storm, leaving death, destruction, ignorance, and oppression in its wake. I see the symptoms of this deadly condition everywhere I look.

  • The person who hears “Black lives matter” and scornfully replies “All lives matter!”
  • The one who doesn’t believe in vaccines even though vaccines have effectively wiped out (or at least ameliorated the effects of) some of the most deadly and contagious conditions the world has ever known: smallpox, polio, measles, chickenpox, influenza, tetanus, hepatitis A & B, and many, many more. And yet they suddenly fear the Covid vaccine. Can you spell o-b-l-i-v-i-o-u-s?
  • If you’ve disabled the muffler on your car, motorcycle, SUV, or pickup truck thinking it would make you (1) cooler, (2) safer, and/or (3) more of a man (sexist, yes, but what woman would be foolish enough to do such a thing?), seek professional help right away. You’re a victim of the oblivious epidemic. And everyone else within earshot (i.e. a mile or so) of wherever you drive is a victim of your obliviousness.*
  • Anyone who thinks Donald Trump gives a flying fig about anything but himself and wouldn’t slit their throat if he thought it would add to his bank account and he could get away with it. Or that he’s a conservative.
  • If you never considered the possibility of a pandemic hitting us, as so many have throughout history, you’ve been struck with this condition.
  • Smokers.
  • The billionaire who thanks the people he has exploited for financing his insane space boondoggle. Oh, and the people he exploited who don’t recognize it.
  • Anyone with a “Coexist” bumper sticker who runs red lights and cuts off people in traffic.
  • Me, much of the time.
  • Then there are the obvious, longstanding examples, such as the person hauling a month’s worth of groceries through the 10-items-or-less line, the clown going below (or even at) the speed limit in the left lane of the highway, and the Jeopardy contestants who always start at the top left of the board instead of intentionally trying to find the “Daily Double” by choosing higher value clues early in the game.

There are millions of examples, at least as many as there are people. I’ve expounded on this general topic before but realized I could create a whole new post by repackaging it. 🙂

Where have you seen obliviousness? Or are you oblivious to it?


*One of the most heinous aspects of this epidemic is that it doesn’t cause the victims any ill effects. It only harms others! Imagine if contracting Covid didn’t hurt you at all? What if only other people, some of whom you might never come in contact with, who might even live half way around the world, had to go on ventilators? (Right now, the oblivious among us are thinking, “That would be great!” sigh)

FAQs

(Any web site worth its salt has an FAQs page. Mine has never done so. That could be an inhibitor to its growth from a platform for a curmudgeon trying to unload his lame scribbling to a viral social media giant.

Or not.)

  • Why do you bother with this blog after seven years of almost complete reader indifference?

A fair question, one I’ve wrestled with many times. The most obvious is ego. Having a blog allows me to pretend I have something of import to say, when it’s highly doubtful I do. That’s a self-defeating concept since, as you so clearly and painfully point out, no one appears to be reading it. Ouch! (Thank you for not noting my other blog, “Limping in the Light”, which experienced a similar lack of impact for 10 years. Oh my.)

Another, more reasonable excuse is the desire to sell books. I have seven out there as of this typing (2021) with one more in the works. There’s an infinitesimal but non-zero chance that Oprah will happen on this site and discover that my novel about Haiti, “A Slippery Land”, is perfect for her book club… which it is.

Finally, I just like writing. It’s enjoyable and it’s therapeutic.

  • Have you read the new Andy Weir book, “Project Hail Mary”?

Yes, and it’s great. Similar to “The Martian” in both style and entertainment value. Highly recommended.

  • Can I borrow ten bucks?

No.

  • What’s the deal with that guy in the commercial who points at all your junk and it just goes away?

Nothing is more annoying to me. Our stuff doesn’t just “go away”. There is no “away”. Living under that delusion has brought this world to the predicament it’s in today.

  • How many Frenchmen can’t be wrong?

Last I checked, it was 1,000,000. That might have changed.

  • Is it true that Dick van Dyke was originally cast as the lead in the old movie, “The Omen”?

That’s what I heard. It would be a very different movie with him instead of Gregory Peck, don’t you think? It might have been a musical.

  • Why do people say “dial the phone” when there hasn’t been a dial on a phone in decades?

The same reason my father used to tell us to turn off the gas on the electric stove.

  • How about five bucks?

Okay.

  • Why do motorcycles make so much noise their riders can’t hear themselves think?

They aren’t missing anything.

  • Then they turn up their music above the sound of the bike?

Go figure.

  • Is my call important to you?

Yes, and it will be recorded for customer satisfaction purposes.

  • Where can I get your awesome books?

On Amazon or from me directly.

  • What do you want to be when you grow up?

I have no intention of growing up.

  • What’s the meaning of life?

The Westminster Catechism says “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.” That works for me.

  • Who are your favorite actors?

For some reason, my favorite actors tend to be more commonly in supporting roles as opposed to carrying a movie. Among those that come to mind at the moment are Stanley Tucci, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Bill Cobbs, Steve Zahn, Michael Pena, and a bunch more I can’t think of right now. I appreciate people like these folks who (1) are humble enough to take smaller roles, (2) flexible enough to play anything from drama to OTT humor, and (3) make every movie they’re in better.

  • Have you heard the one about the…

Yes.

  • What does “clockwise” mean?

You were born after 2000, weren’t you?

  • $7.50?

Give it a rest!


(Let me know if you have any more questions you need answered.)