A note to a friend who is a Trump fan


I know you are an ardent Trump fan and I applaud your passion. Yet, numerous Republican election officials, even Trump appointees, have said on the record there was no widespread voter fraud. And. Trump has lost about two dozen court cases, winning only one small case that tossed a few votes. Biden won because he got more votes in states where it mattered most. Trump has staged this voter fraud issue for over six months, so what he is doing is predictable, alarming and harmful to our country. I expect you will disagree with me, and that is fine, but I wanted you to know I have major concerns. That is what this old fart thinks. That and $2 will get you a cup of coffee.

You remember that place next to the restaurant we liked – an updated version

This is an example of “couplespeak.” After years of marriage, it is entirely possible the other member of the couple will know precisely where the speaker is meaning. And, neither may actually remember the name of the place or the restaurant used as the landmark. This kind of conversation can surface in a multitude of ways. Here are a few more examples.

Oh, she is that actress who starred in the action movie with the guy we like.

This one usually requires some stumbling add-ons. Because the responding question will usually be, “Which movie are you talking about?” Nowadays, with Google, it is possible to come up with names and trace the movie to the other star. Yet, it is possible for the spouse to know after some add-on suggestions, who the actress and actor are.

Why don’t you make that casserole you made when we had some folks over?

Between the two, the name of the other couple can be surfaced which will help with the mental Rolodex of recipe names. Otherwise, it will be an ingredient hinting exercise. “I remembered it was a chicken and sausage dish.”

Was it Johnny, Susie or Joey that had the whooping cough or was it the croup?

This is not a fill in the blank question like the others. But, if you are a parent of more than one child, some of the younger child illnesses blend together. Your kids will laugh at you if you don’t remember, but they will cease laughing when it happens to them as parents. Also, the diseases do get mixed up some, which is why you keep a list.

What is the name of that singer that sounds like the woman we heard on the American Idol or The Voice?”

It is the “name that person questions” that come up the most. We know both of us know her, yet neither can recall her name. We do need to find some hint that will jog memory or facilitate the Google search.

Do you think the “Sun” or “Jellyfish” or “Popcorn” is that actress or singer who was in…?”

To get this reference, you have to be a fan of “The Masked Singer,” where artists dress in very creative costumes and sing in competition. Throughout their stints, the competitors offer clues. Yet, given the previous and first example above, it does test our couplespeak. Do you think that is the guy who starred in the sit-com about the young family with two dads?

To others, it will appear we have no sense at all. If you told someone that you could not remember a popular person or place, the other person would think you were crazy. “How can you not know that?” Yet, all couples will eventually migrate to this couplespeak at some point.

Tell me a few of your examples. Which ones did I not capture? When did you first notice this trend?

More than James Bond – Sean Connery RIP

Of course, I am biased, but the best actor to play the character James Bond is the first – Sean Connery. I am sure others might argue more recent actors fit the bill, but he is my number one. We should celebrate the life of Connery with his passing this weekend at the age of 90.

Yet, he was far more than James Bond, both from a movie standpoint and everyday life standpoint. On the former, one of my favorite movies of all time is “The Man who would be King,” which Connery starred in with his friend and prolific actor Michael Caine. It is truly a spellbinding adventure of two friends who were British soldiers stationed in India.

Another favorite is also not a Bond movie, yet Connery won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, “The Untouchables” with Kevin Costner and Robert De Niro. Connery makes the movie, in my view, and apparently in the view of the Oscar voters. His character’s chance meeting Eliot Ness is a good example, when Ness asks why he believes that Ness is a Federal agent – Connery’s character said why would anyone confess to being that if he were not?

One of the best ensemble movies that Connery starred in was “The Hunt for Red October” based on the Tom Clancy novel. A stellar cast of Alec Baldwin, James Earl Jones, Tim Curry, Sam Neill among others made this great movie even better.

Another favorite movie is “The Presidio” with Mark Harmon and Meg Ryan. This one did not get the fanfare as the others, but it has a good plot and is well-acted. Connery character leads base security at the Presidio in San Francisco (as a retired soldier) and must solve a crime with Harmon’s police character, who is not a fan of the military, but is of Connery’s daughter played by Ryan.

Let me finish with another favorite called “Finding Forrester.” Connery plays a recluse writer who befriends a young teen played by Rob Brown who tries to rob his apartment in New York. Brown’s character keeps a journal that falls out of his pocket. Connery’s character sees promise in the journal, then corrects all the poor grammar and returns it to him. This movie also has one of the best covers of “Over the Rainbow” as it fades out. Below is a link to this version from the movie.

Connery made several other movies, including “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” which endeared him to the younger crowd. Since that movie is mentioned often along with the Bond movies, I will only mention it here. He also was in a movie called “In the Name of the Rose,” about a murder at an abbey, which is entertaining, as well as being unusual. As for my favorite Bond movie with Connery, “Goldfinger” would likely be it as it has two of the best villains in the title character and his armed guard “Odd Job.”

As for his personal life, I was unaware of his advocacy for Scottish independence. He spoke in front of the Scottish parliament to elicit their support. He also was used by the Scottish tourism industry to sell his country as a destination. There could be none better. I read once, maybe from Caine’s biography, that Connery was a very prepared actor. When he arrived at the movie set he was ready to go.

Connery will be missed by his fans and Scottish citizens.

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

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.

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.

Two articles speak volumes

Two articles are worth noting as we head into the election. The first is “Trump’s handling of coronavirus pandemic hits record low approval: Reuters/Ipsos poll’ by John Whitesides of Reuters. Here are a few paragraphs.

“Americans are steadily losing confidence in President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with his net approval on the issue that has dominated the U.S. election hitting a record low in a new Reuters/Ipsos poll.

The poll taken Tuesday through Thursday, after Trump’s COVID-19 infection and weekend hospitalization, found 37% of American adults approved of the president’s handling of the pandemic and 59% disapproved.

The net approval rating of negative 22 percentage points is the lowest in the poll dating back to March 2 and has steadily declined over the last 10 days, as Trump’s illness and his return to work in the White House dominated news headlines.”

The second article was reported by Randy Tucker in the Cincinnati Enquirer is called “Mitch McConnell says White House’s lax COVID rules are why he hasn’t visited since August.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Thursday said he hasn’t visited the White House in two months because of what he saw as lax coronavirus practices. “‘ haven’t actually been to the White House since Aug. 6 because my impression was their approach to how to handle this (pandemic) was different from mine and what I insisted we do in the Senate, which was to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” McConnell said during an appearance in Northern Kentucky.

These excerpts and articles speak for themselves. To be frank, while bad, I am surprised the disapproval rating of Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 response is not higher. We are just shy of 218,000 deaths in America, yet that does not seem to be a problem or a debate question worth answering. It just shows how little news actually gets to people that need to see it. That is what this independent voter thinks.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-s-handling-of-coronavirus-pandemic-hits-record-low-approval-reuters-ipsos-poll/ar-BB19Q8zM?ocid=msedgdhp

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/mitch-mcconnell-i-havent-visited-white-house-recently-because-of-lax-covid-rules/ar-BB19PyTp?ocid=uxbndlbing

A quiet and competitive baseball star passed away

As a boy, I had dreams of being a professional baseball player. I began playing organized baseball when I was 8 and did not stop until my senior year of high school. I was reminded of that yesterday, when one of the older stars named Bob Gibson passed away from pancreatic cancer at the age of 84. You may not know who he is, so allow me one paragraph on his success, courtesy of Wikipedia, which I will follow with a few recollections.

“Robert Gibson was an American professional baseball pitcher who played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals. Nicknamed “Gibby” and “Hoot”, Gibson tallied 251 wins, 3,117 strikeouts, and a 2.91 earned run average during his career. A nine-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion, he won two Cy Young Awards and the 1968 National League Most Valuable Player Award. Known for a fiercely competitive nature and for intimidating opposing batters, he was elected in 1981 to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. The Cardinals retired his uniform number 45 in September 1975 and inducted him into the team Hall of Fame in 2014.”

The above paragraph speaks of him being fiercely competitive implying he must have been some kind of jerk. While pitching, he was a force as he was paid to get the batters out. And, he could be off putting to teammates. This talented pitcher was very quiet, even soft-spoken, and did not brag on himself like too many do today. He was very smart and confident and largely kept to himself. That did not always sit well with reporters and others. So, to say he was a warm person would also be off the mark.

But, as his former catcher and later baseball announcer Tim McCarver said about Gibson, he scared batters because he had command of two pitches – a moving fastball and curveball. Batters did not want to dig in too deep at the plate because of these two pitches. He would throw the fastball inside, then strikeout the batter with his curve ball away. As a former player, facing a fastball that moved was more frightening than one that was straight.

In 1964, 1967 and 1968, he led the St. Louis Cardinals to three World Series, with his team winning two of them. They came close to winning all three, but succumbed to a loaded Detroit Tigers team in seven games in 1968. Yet, even then, Gibson pitched the Cardinals to two victories. In the first game against the Tigers, Gibson struck out seventeen batters. At the time, the record was 18 strikeouts.

When Gibson was pitching against a team I was pulling for, I knew it was an uphill battle. I remember a sports show where Bob Costas interviewed Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, two of the greatest baseball players who played in Gibson’s time. Gibson was in the audience and when Costas asked him to stand, both players showed Gibson much respect as a worthy adversary.

There is an old saying that applies to Gibson; be more scared of the quiet one. He did not boast, he just performed. He was quiet, but he was confident. He was someone I would love to talk with about his philosophy on pitching. Then, again he may not have let me.

Two emails – civil discourse

The following is an email response (to my earlier email) from a friend who I would say is a reasonable person and who has served his community helping folks in need. Following his response to me, I share my response with him.

What I want people to note is the civil tone we both tried to convey, even though there are areas of disagreement. My thrust is not to say what could have been said by each, but to say we can disagree without taking each other’s head off.

My friend’s response to an earlier email

“To say Donald Trump is different is to make an understatement. He’s not conservative, he’s a populist. He doesn’t believe in fiscal constraint, and that’s why he loves tax cuts AND fiscal stimulus as needed this past spring to address the pandemic. Just watch, we will have another fiscal stimulus package (even if it is Speaker Pelosi’s moderate wing that has signed a discharge petition to move forward narrow stimulus items forcing the issue before the election).

Donald Trump has many flaws (which is why I don’t feel the need to list them), but I think he really does care about regular people. I see this in his commitment to fixing the VA, even if stepping on toes. I listened to his caddy of thirty years ago turned personal assistant in his remarks at the RNC convention, and you know he’s not just self-immersed, even if he always talks thru that lens.

He doesn’t pull blue collar voters because he doesn’t listen. And similar with black and Latino voters. For a guy who’s had economic comfort his whole life, he oddly has an ear for their complaints. (A similar wealth comparison is Great Britain’s Prime Minister Clement Attlee; very rich, who after learning of British slums, became a populist Democratic Socialist who advocated for national health care, nationalized businesses, etc.)

Trump’s not different in that way. Just different in the timing of what’s been tried and what’s likely to work now. You see this in his making Obamacare less expensive so more people can afford it. This is where he’s within the fold to repeal Obamacare movement, but also for its streamlining. This is also evidenced in his desire for health care pricing transparency. And his instincts are right here. Any time one is able to price shop, it changes your behavior.

On Joe Biden, I wish he were the Joe Biden I recall from the late 80’s and early 90’s. The way he got his nomination with a consolidation of liberal endorsements doesn’t reinforce his moderation. It underscores it is at risk.

That said, there is much to be thoughtful about. And I do see the election process forcing both sides to moderate…”
************************************************

The following is my response.

“Many thanks for your thoughtful response, which is not a surprise. While he has accomplished some good things (the reduced sentencing, the first COVID-19 stimulus, eg.), I could argue policy decisions on several fronts, but I won’t. What frustrates me most is the divisive rhetoric he uses on a daily basis and the name calling as a substitute for civil discourse. I hold a lot of conservative writers and public servants in high regard and their concerns about the incumbent president are worth noting.

General James Mattis, whose departure as Secretary of Defense was of great concern to Republicans and Democrats, noted a few months ago the president does not even try to unite us. To me, that is mission one, which is a key reason I gravitate to Joe Biden, whose career is one of bipartisanship. He is getting killed by the far left for not being progressive enough and killed by the right for being too progressive. He is a moderate. You are correct, he will get pressure to be more left than he wants, but so did Obama. We should not lose sight that the two most successful Democrat presidents of late have been moderates.

David Brooks, George Will and Michael Gerson are three of my favorite conservative pundits and each are advocating for Biden to win, as are Republicans for the Rule of Law, Republican Voters against Trump and The Lincoln Project. While you were watching the Trump convention, these folks held another Republican convention also from Charlotte. I also find of interest Cindy McCain is on Biden’s transition team, should he win. That speaks volumes.

I recognize Biden is imperfect, but we need a galvanizing influence, not a divisive one. Per a Pew survey, trust in America from abroad has fallen significantly, to the extent, Putin and Xi are more trusted than the US president. This concerns me as our allied relationships have been a strength. As for socialism, many in our country do not realize our economy is one of fettered capitalism with socialist underpinnings. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment, Workers Comp, eg. are socialistic programs. As Brooks touts, we need a healthy discussion on what is the proper balance of all of these programs and how do we monitor them.

Thanks again for your thoughtful remarks.”

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum – a reprise

Since we all need a dose of humor these days, the following is a repeat of a post I wrote seven years ago.

With due credit to Zero Mostel, I borrowed the title from one of his funniest movies to share some of my, my family and my friends’ more comical moments which you might find amusing. In some, I conducted the act, where others I witnessed. I hope you will enjoy and laugh with me, as I laughed the hardest on a few that I did.

1. Always have a spare quarter – In high school, I was fortunate enough to play on a good baseball team in a pretty competitive conference of large schools around the city. Where I grew up, there was a large river that had numerous toll bridges. Returning from an afternoon baseball game still in uniform, I was driving with a couple of teammates as we approached the toll booth. None of us had a quarter for the toll. As we debated our action strategy, we noticed the car in front of us included some of our teammates. Just before I got out of the car to ask them for the toll money, their door opened and one came back to ask us if we had any quarters, of which they had none as well. We had to ask a toll keeper for leniency as we begged our way through. Yet, we had to say, “you’re not going to believe this, but we don’t have any money either.”

2. Dueling Air Guitars – Before Rock Band, doing air guitar in public was usually not seen. It was something you did in front of the mirror. Keeping with the baseball theme, I was at bat in practice when two of my good friends who teased me for being a head-banger (hard rock fan) decided to have some fun. With one in right field and one in center field, they did one leg up, hopping air guitars toward each other passing in right-center field. Another friend who was pitching had to turn around to see why I was hysterical with laughter. My hitting was not strong during this at bat as a result.

3. Community Plays are dangerous – On a double date with a girl I really liked, we decided to go to a community play. Since it was in a church hall, they had these choral risers in place to create an amphitheater affect.We sat with fold out chairs in the back row about three feet off the ground. After a wine and cheese intermission, we re-seated with wine containers still in hand. As I tilted back and drank mine, I noticed my date was going forward. Actually, it was me going backwards as one of my chair legs was off the riser and I was falling. What became one of the loudest booms, everyone (including the actors) turned to see the big tall guy on the floor splattered on a folded up chair. Fortunately, the play had not restarted and even more so, I was not hurt. But, it sure was funny. I did get a another date, but we went to a safer venue.

4. Joseph, David what’s in a name? – When my boys were little they roomed together. We would always read a story to them and one of the books we read from was filled with biblical tales and songs. On one night, I left the book downstairs and decided to sing one of the songs from memory. You may recall the song, “Only a Boy Named David” telling the tale of his slaying of Goliath. Well in this case, I mixed biblical names and began “Only a Boy Named Joseph…..” After a couple of verses, my youngest boy who was about four, said “but… Dad, I ..thought…his… name…was…David?” to which we all burst out laughing.

5. Jumping on a bed can be dangerous – In another bed time reading incident, I decided to hurl my body onto my youngest son’s bed which was about a foot away from the wall. Unfortunately, my momentum carried me off the bed and down the foot crevice between bed and wall. Mom came hustling in to see what all the racket was as Dad was stuck trying to pry himself loose. Needless to say, sleep time was delayed due to the laughter which ensued.

6. You won’t believe what your son is doing – My oldest son is a climber and we have had some scary moments because of it. This was not one of them. My wife called me at work to tell me my son (hers too, but he was mine now) had climbed to the top of a forty-foot magnolia tree and in front of all of the neighborhood girls was peeing off the tree. She described it as a rainbow of urine. My wife was giggling so hard, she could not tell him to come down for a few minutes. And, just to have an extra witness, his Godmother was there as well.

7. Same son, another climbing incident – In our first house, there were built-in floor to ceiling bookshelves in the children’s bedroom by the door. Downstairs one evening, we heard this clump, clump, clump and went up to investigate. When we peeked in the room, we at first could not find him. On closer notice, we saw behind the door, he had thrown off the books and was sitting at the very top shelf with a big grin on his face swinging his legs.

8. We may not be permitted back in this store – At a local furniture store, my youngest son needed to go as my wife and I were looking for furniture. So, I walked him into the restroom and when he decided he wanted to go by himself, I checked making sure that no one was in there So, I walked outside and stood guard. For some reason, he decided the elevated wall urinal was a toilet and proceeded to do a number 2 in it. When I peeked in, I quickly grabbed him to take him to the toilet. Unfortunately, the missiles were flying so we plopped, plopped, plopped on our way to the toilet. After cleaning him up and making sure he was with his Mom, I said I will be a few minutes and told her about my new mission to clean up. That was some expensive furniture.

9. One word can make a difference – Back in the 1990’s, my company took pride in being a forerunner in offering mobile mammograms for our female employees. We were into wellness in a big way. As an aside, out of 9,000 screenings, there were 11 breast cancers detected that were caught early enough. I mention this as I was talking with someone on my team who led our wellness efforts. It was October and I made the point that we need a big push since it was “Breast Awareness Month.” My friend and colleague in her best dead pan voice, said BTG it’s “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”

10.  Reading can make you sleepy – When my daughter was little, we read voraciously, sometimes three and four books a night. I used to lie beside her as we read so she could see the pictures, but Dad had a bad habit of falling asleep after a couple of books. I would awaken to her pushing me “Daddy wake up, I need to go to sleep.” After that I had to sit on the floor to stay awake. She banned me from reading lying down.

11. The Red Cardinals are different – My daughter used to have about 30 stuffed animals in her room. She named them all, usually with very interesting, whimsical names as she was pretty creative and well read. Yet, all were given female names. One day, my brother-in-law gave her a red cardinal. She proceeded with her normal naming convention. It hit me a few seconds later and I started grinning. She asked why I was smiling and I asked her a question I knew she knew the answer to. What color are the female cardinals? She started laughing and said I need a new name for this guy.

12. Missing child in the house – We used to have a Golden Retriever who liked to sleep on the oriental rug under our dining room table. It caught a nice sun in the afternoon and when it was cold it was very cozy. One day, we could not find my youngest son and looked everywhere. The doors had the dead bolt locks on, so he had to be in the house. After several minutes of frantic looking, we found him under the dining room table laying close to the dog, sound asleep. This is more “awwww” than “ha ha”  but I thought it would be good to close with that one.

Thanks for reading. Life is funny, so remember to laugh at yourself. If you are not laughing, you might be alone in your silence. And, don’t take yourself too seriously or one day you may find yourself cleaning up poop in a furniture store restroom. God has a sense of humor. Please feel free to share any comical moments that these stories may cause you to remember.