American Utopia – an excellent musical by David Byrne

For those of us who came of age in the 1970s, the name David Byrne may be familiar. Yet, the name of his group, “Talking Heads” likely will ring a few more bells.

For the past few years, David Byrne’s “American Utopia” has been well received on Broadway. Fortunately, before COVID-19 shut down Broadway, Spike Lee filmed a special performance with Byrne and his multi-national troupe. It is a memorable show that is airing now on HBO. Below is link to a HBO trailer.

Dressed alike in gray suits, sans shoes and ties, Byrne and his eleven performers blend their talents in a choreographed marching band of various drum kits, guitars, a keyboard, and various and sundry instruments.

Only two of the songs appear to be popular Talking Heads’ songs – “Once in a lifetime” and “Burning down the house.” The latter sounds better than the released version with added percussion.

He also adds new music and that of others. Byrne explains the songs beforehand and includes an introduction of the band as they build the next song instrument by instrument.

Another highlight occurs when he says he asked permission from Janelle Monae to do her song as a plea for justice for a list of killed black people. This was filmed prior to the terrible deaths this year, but Lee adds a memorial at the end of the song.

Byrne makes observations throughout about our country. In one telling moment, he encourages people to vote, using the audience lights to indicate how many 20% represents that vote in local elections. He also noted in the 2016 election only 57% of Americans voted. To me, this indicates the voting problem in America – it is not fraud, it is not enough people are voting.

Yet, the highlight is the wonderful music coming from the stage produced by many different nationalities, races and ethnicities. That is what America is all about.

https://www.hbo.com/specials/american-utopia

A seventy-one old toaster (and marriage)

It is just a toaster, a Sunbeam T-20 model, which toasts two pieces at a time. Yet, it was purchased and given as a wedding gift in 1949. And, it still works. Two slices of toast are still needed each morning, because Frank and Gloria Witt are still married after seventy-one years.

Per the article by Nicole Brodeur of The Seattle Times called “After 71 years, marriage – and wedding gift – endures,” the 92 year-old Frank and 93 year-old Gloria, are enduring well. A picture accompanying the article reveals Frank, with his World War II Veteran ball cap, and Gloria, and her large smile, placing her head on his shoulder.

They met when Frank ventured to Tacoma after the war to attend college and went to the dentist. Gloria was the dentist’s niece and was working behind the desk. Frank said he made more appointments to find out who she was. Good dental hygiene can be a matchmaker.

Per Brodeur, “It’s not just about a toaster. It’s about marriage, and anything of value. It’s about taking care of something – or someone.” Their son Christopher adds, “‘if you treat something really well, then it will last.'”

Frank added, “‘we try to take care of everything and keep using it. We came from the Depression days. You used everything you could for as long as you could take care of it.'”

Frank said they had only purchased a refrigerator before they got married. Everything else was provided by others. They planned their purchases as well as when they wanted children, five years hence. They ended up with three Victoria (now 66), Christopher (now 62) and Margaret (now 56), but note the spacing in ages, which also looks to be the product of planning.

A vintage Sunbeam toaster like the one they have is worth about $300 today. This one is worth far more than that as a symbol. Yet, my guess is, if it goes before them, they will be practical and just go buy another one.

Tell me why I ask some more?

I am puzzled with inconsistencies. Using The Beatles’ song “Tell me why?” once again, allow me to ask a few more questions.

Why should we believe someone who said two months ago he did not know who QAnon is, tweeted more QAnon based inane conspiracies. applauded a Georgia Republican Congressional candidate who touts such inanity and then repeats on national TV he still did not know who QAnon is?

Why should we believe the same person whose modus operandi is to create fear, say he did not want to tell Americans the truth about the coronavirus as he did not want to create a panic? Panic is his currency. It seemed OK for him to relay the inane QAnon tweet about Osama Bin Laden.

Why should we believe someone who repeatedly says and does racist things and endorses groups that want to diminish the rights of non-whites, then claims he is the least racist person in the world?

Why would voters not embrace the lesson of decisive victory in New Zealand by incumbent Jacinda Ardern? Ardern’s election victory is seen as an endorsement of an inclusive brand of leadership that is built on empathy and crisis management, two traits missing in several leaders such as the US president.

Why would a Senate candidate who has a good chance of unseating the Republican incumbent think it is a good idea to have an affair with a married woman? Yes, he may have been separated, but that shows poor judgment.

Of course, I am still trying to understand the actions of a sexting congressman, a groping and assaulting president, and former presidents who could not keep their paints on.

A Republican Senator is less than kind in his remarks about the president

Senator Ben Sasse has been a troubled Republican Senator for the last few years. Of course, his words have gotten him on the president’s “naughty list” when he has dared utter inconvenient truths. In an article yesterday republished by MSN (see link below) called “GOP Sen Sasse unleashes scathing attack on Trump TV obsessed narcissist,” Sasse continues to share his concerns. Here are a few paragraphs.

“During a telephone town hall, a constituent asked Sasse about his relationship with the president and why he has to criticize him so much, according to an audio clip that was first obtained by The Washington Examiner and has been posted on Youtube.

‘I’m not at all apologetic for having fought for my values against his in places where I think his are deficient, not just for a Republican but for an American,’ said Sasse, who then began ticking off a number of things he dislikes about the president. ‘The way he kisses dictators’ butts. I mean, the way he ignores that the Uighurs are in literal concentration camps in Xinjiang right now. He hasn’t lifted a finger on behalf of the Hong Kongers.

‘The United States now regularly sells out our allies under his leadership, the way he treats women, spends like a drunken sailor,’ Sasse continued, adding that Trump ‘mocks evangelicals behind closed doors…has treated the presidency like a business opportunity’ and has ‘flirted with white supremacists.’

There is truly nothing to add to this comments other than I share his concerns and more.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/gop-sen-sasse-unleashes-scathing-attack-on-trump-tv-obsessed-narcissist/ar-BB1a5Z23?ocid=msedgdhp

Life’s Little Instruction Book – an old gift

On my first Father’s Day many years ago, my wife gave me “Life’s Little Instruction Book” compiled by H. Jackson Browne, Jr. I was leafing through it today as it lay on an upstairs table near my computer. Here are few of the 511 pearls of wisdom that can be found therein.

#454 – Show respect for everyone that works for a living, regardless of how trivial their job.

#276 – Patronize local merchants even if it costs a little more.

#186 – Be insatiably curious. Ask “why” a lot.

#158 – Pray not for things, but for wisdom and courage.

#107 – Smile a lot. It costs nothing and is beyond the price.

#246 – Wave at children on school’s buses.

#426 – Share the credit.

#375 – Take charge of your attitude. Don’t let someone else choose it for you.

#127 – Wear the most audacious of underwear under the most solemn business attire.

#58 – Always accept an outstretched hand.

Many of the above are not among the usual instructions. The first two remind me of what we need to do more of in today’s pandemic. Of course, the more startling one is my favorite about “audacious underwear.”

It reminds me of the a staid company I worked for, where the very dignified manager of a department had an “underwear optional” day for the troops. Going commando was never so much fun.

The last one is hard, but should not be. Why don’t we want to accept help? After 9/11, America’s approval ratings were at its highest. Other countries wanted to help, but we did not accept it very well. That was unwise.

The one I gravitate to the most and often advise is a variation of don’t cede your power to someone else. Take charge of your attitude. You are not offended, if you do not take offense.

Two weeks later – the debate disaster still impacting Trump

I did not need a presidential debate to understand the nature of the beast who is the US president. His corrupt, deceitful, bullying and childish behavior over years has show us who he is. Yet, sometimes, there needs to be a clear reminder. The presidential debate a few weeks ago may have served that role.

In an article called “Trump hasn’t recovered from tailspin set off by raucous debate performance, poll shows” by David Lauer of The LA TImes, the following paragraphs frame this story. The entire article can be linked to below.

“With three weeks left until election day, President Trump has not recovered from the self-inflicted wounds of his first debate with Joe Biden and, instead, has sunk farther behind his challenger, a new USC Dornsife poll shows.

The encounter in Cleveland, dominated by Trump’s repeated interruptions and his cryptic statement that seemingly welcomed a right-wing extremist group, appears to be the exception to the usual rule that the impact of debates fades quickly.

The damage the debate did to Trump’s standing has persisted through his bout with COVID-19, leaving him with a deep deficit and little time to recover. (Trump’s refusal to participate in an Oct. 15 virtual debate led to its cancellation; the final debate is set for Oct. 22.)”

Last Saturday, I watched a replay of “Real Time with Bill Maher” from the night before. The guests made two interesting observations about Trump’s debate disaster. For all of those viewers who were are troubled by Trump and his behavior, they were fully reminded of who Donald Trump is with his rude and overbearing behavior as he repeatedly interrupted both Joe Biden and the moderator, Chris Wallace.

That would have been enough, but for a US president to swing and whiff at an easy lob by not condemning a white supremacist group, was mind-boggling. Then, to give tongue-in-cheek support to a white supremacist groups was beyond the pale. I am not surprised the racist president feels this way, but I am surprised he said what he did. It was truly an unforced error, but an actual window into his nature.

On this same Bill Maher show, a female guest added something interesting about the Vice Presidential debate. She noted that even though Mike Pence is not as rude as Trump, he still talked over Kamala Harris and the moderator, Susan Page. The guest noted many women have used (or thought of using) the line Harris said, “It is my turn to talk.”

Being overbearing is not restricted to men. But, when men are overbearing, people think less of it. When a women is overbearing, they are labeled with harsher words. The exception is when a man is over-the-top overbearing. The president does not study facts or history, so his way of arguing is to name-call and raise his voice. As my grandmother said, those who name-call and shout usually have a poor argument.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-hasn-t-recovered-from-tailspin-set-off-by-raucous-debate-performance-poll-shows/ar-BB1a0Qcy?ocid=msedgdhp

Commercial electric vehicle company opens microfactory near Charlotte in Rock Hill, SC

Per WCNC, a television news station in Charlotte, a report called “Electric vehicle microfactory promises to bring 240 jobs to Rock Hill” was aired. Rock Hill is part of the Charlotte Metro area just across the border in South Carolina. Here are the salient points per a MSN write-up of the piece:

Arrival, a company that produces electric vehicles around the world, announced Tuesday its plans to build a ‘microfactory’ in York County. The factory is part of a $46 million investment in the region and is Arrival’s first American microfactory. The company expects to bring 240 new jobs to the Rock Hill area. 

Arrival, which was found in London in 2015, creates zero-emission vehicles for commercial transportation. The South Carolina facility will utilize a new cell-based assembly method to produce vehicles, rather than the traditional assembly line. This will give Arrival the flexibility to produce any vehicle in its portfolio at the factory, according to a press release from the company.”

This is just more evidence of where future growth will occur. It is good to see our area embracing new technologies to make zero emission vehicles. The train (or in this case, the bus) toward renewable energy has left the station. Communities that are embracing this will see more growth and better cost models going forward, as well as help the environment.

This is is not an outlier story. Solar energy jobs have averaged annual double digit growth and dwarf coal energy jobs. Wind energy is also growing in the US, especially in the plain states with Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma combined getting more than 1/3 of their electricity from wind energy. And, Tesla has branched into electric delivery trucks on top of their cars.

These news stories should be more widely communicated to show the path forward is being taken by states, cities and companies.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/autos/news/electric-vehicle-microfactory-promises-to-bring-240-jobs-to-rock-hill/ar-BB19ZdCG?ocid=msedgdhp

Threat to our own country – short letter to the editor

I sent this in to my local paper. If you like this, please feel free to adapt and use. Fingers crossed on whether they print it.

As an Independent and former GOP voter, the untruthful and bullying bents of the president are bothersome. His mishandling of COVID-19 which continues has harmed Americans. But, seeing a US president make several efforts to derail confidence in the voting process and endorse white supremacists are beyond the pale. The FBI arrested thirteen people plotting to kidnap the Michigan governor and these groups are emboldened by this president’s lack of criticism and tongue-in-cheek support. I truly never thought I would see a US president be a threat to our own country. Taking this president at his word is not only a fool’s errand, it is dangerous.

PS – Different subject, which I covered recently. This morning’s opening remarks by Senator Lindsey Graham to discredit the ACA made me ill they were so misleading. In short, he said the ACA is not working for South Carolinians as more money goes to three states. He did not say SC did NOT expand Medicaid, so that money goes elsewhere. And, he did NOT say, that more premiums subsidies go to three states as they have larger populations and, of course, get more subsidies. They also pay more taxes. This is an example of misleading people and why folks like Graham and Trump need to be voted out.

Here is a link to piece I wrote two weeks ago.

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2020/10/03/just-a-quick-refresher-on-the-aca-animosity-in-the-republican-party/

Bloom where you are planted

Bloom where you are planted. I read this phrase from an article that cited it as advice the author’s mother gave her. Sometimes, we go places where we must. Maybe you are a trailing spouse or the child of a family whose breadwinning parent moves a lot. Maybe the better job offer you get is in another place. So, you go and get replanted.

Now, the path forward is up to you. You can cry, bitch and moan. If you are young, you can throw a tantrum. If you are old, you can become colder or invest only in your work and less in the community. Or, you can bloom. You can look at the opportunity to make the most of the situation. You can invest with water, sunshine and effort and bloom.

My wife will lament about how good certain former neighborhoods were. After she does this, I say it was nice because you were in it. You made it nicer. You welcomed people to our home and made new friends. You invested in the neighborhood and bloomed. And, we (and they) bloomed as well.

Although our kids have moved away, with one return exception since COVID-19 altered his travel plans to teach abroad, we had a house that welcomed our kids’ friends. As a result, we seemed to have a constant state of flux with all the guests that came to play and hang-out. Neither of us would have it any other way. Hearing your children and their friends laughing is the greatest sound any parent can hear.

I chose the investment word not to mix metaphors, but to encourage folks to invest time and energy in their new place. It is like marriage – if you invest in your spouse, it will make the marriage last. If you don’t, the marriage, or in this case, your time in the new community will suffer.

So, it is up to you. Bloom where you are planted. Make the most of any situation. How you react to any change is truly the greatest power you have. Don’t cede that power. Bloom.

Why is the English language so difficult?

In one of life’s ironies, the citizens of the United States speak an Americanized version of the English language, yet so few Americans bother to learn a second language. It has been argued that English is one of the most difficult languages to learn, yet because of the exploration of the English and the success of two large English speaking economies, people feel the need to learn it.

I inherited from my mother a love of Crossword and other word (and number) puzzles. As I wait for my computer to boot up, I will pick up a pocket dictionary close by and just leaf through it, testing myself on words that I may use or need. I do not prefer to know arcane words, as using them will be more pretentious than communicative. There are some editorial writers who prefer to show how smart they are rather than make the reader understand what they are saying.

But, why does English have to be so difficult? Here a few case in points.

Ingenious vs. Ingenuous – the first word means clever or resourceful, while the second word means naive or artless. Only one letter divides an insult from a compliment.

Impunity vs. Impugn – the first word means free from harm or punishment, while the second word means to challenge as false or questionable.

Reproach vs. Rapprochement – the first word means to blame or rebuke, while the second word means an establishing of friendly relations.

Glib vs. Glum – while these words sound like they are similar, the first word means fluent or a good talker of banter, while the latter means gloomy. I have often said glib is one word that means the opposite of what you think.

Curate vs. Curator vs. Curative – the first word means a clergyman helping a vicar, while the second word means a manager of a museum, while the third means having the power to cure or offer remedy.

While I was compiling these words, I was reminded of the great college and NBA basketball player David Robinson. Robinson attended the Naval Academy and served his country after his graduation. A very smart man embodied this 6’11” basketball player. When a reporter asked him why he was good at blocking shots, he said he did not want others driving the lane with “impunity.” The reporters had to go find a dictionary.

What are some of your favorite, confusing English words? Before I leave, my wife and I watch the show “Law and Order – Special Victims Unit.” At the introduction to the show, the narrator mentions the special unit that handles crimes that are “heinous.” Now that is a word that means what it sounds like.