A few oldies but goodies – three most frequented posts

As I reflect on my blogging which began in December, 2011, I tell folks that part of the reason I blog is to give me a place to write what I feel are the significant truths of our day. In a world where everyone seems to have their own source of tailored made and spoon fed news, we seem to lose sight of those truths.

I appreciate greatly those who have taken the time to drop by and read my words, enter a like every once in a while, and on occasion, offer a comment. When someone tells you the efforts you have made are worth a few minutes of their time, it is quite gratifying.

Like you, when I write a piece I have certain expectations of activity and resonance. Some, I have felt would be better frequented are not, while others tend to take off. And, there are a few that catch on later for some reason, where a person finds a lost episode and shares it with others. When I see that activity after months and years, I go back and re-read the post to remind myself what I said.

In the four years I have been writing, three posts have been the reason for about 25% of the visits my blog. The fourth most popular post is beneath 2% of the visits. If you are new to my blog in the past year, you may have not seen these three. I will provide a link below and offer my thoughts on why those three do far better than the others. I would love to hear your comments as well.

Six years alcohol free but still want to drink

I wrote this over two years and am still alcohol free. Many newcomers do not know that I am an alcoholic, but have been able to maintain my sobriety for now eight years. This post is by far my most frequented one, as each of us either have a similar challenge or know someone who has such a challenge. It offers advice I received from an unexpected source that I share with others. “I am not going to drink today.”


Les Miserables and Social Injustice

My wife and I have always enjoyed the musical, but the music can overpower the true misery of the story. The movie starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway allowed that misery and social injustice to come to the forefront. The singing was captured during the filming rather than recorded later and dubbed over. This made the songs resonate with the anguish felt in their voices.


Tribute to a Great Boss

Each of us have had several bosses in our career and we know their imperfections. So, when we get a good one, it makes the days at work much more enjoyable and rewarding. I have had a few good ones, as well as some bad ones, but one stood out as a great boss. This post is a tribute to him upon his retirement and a wish for others to have this pleasure at some point in their work.


Please let me know what you think. For those blogs I follow, I would love for you to do something similar as I would enjoy reading or re-reading your work that resonated most with readers. And, thanks for your words of prose, poetry and song along with the wonderful pictures. They are greatly appreciated.

Best wishes to all over the holidays and have a wonderful 2016.

A Reflection on Two Hundred Posts

My most recent posting hit a milestone as the 200th post I have made on Musings of an Old Fart. I want to thank the many visitors who have dropped by and even more thanks to those who came back again. As others who post know, not everyone comments, which is OK, but those who take the time to do so are greatly appreciated. I try to comment most of the places I visit, as I want the writer to know I hung around for a while. But, even if you don’t share your thoughts, I appreciate your perusing the blog.

I find interesting what turns out to be the more widely read topics I write about. As I review my top five most read posts, three I felt more optimistic about given the topic, but the other two surprised me as they seemed to strike an unexpected chord with folks. I would add that some of the more widely read posts were due to the reposting or endorsement by others. I owe a big thanks to each of you who gave this Old Fart a shout out. You are the best.

The most read post was based on my favorite play and movie – Les Miserables and Social Injustice, which was written on January 13, 2013. The music is so good in the play, it truly overshadows the depth of social injustice in the story. The most recent movie drove home the injustice and this post was well received more so than any other I have written before or since. It still gets many visits each week, which is wonderful as a writer. It is appreciated and I aspire to replicate this feat each time I write.

The second most popular post of mine is Healthcare is more than a pawn, it is a problem written on August 8, 2012. This post was in the middle of the Presidential race and voiced my frustration that healthcare was a pawn in a political game, when it is truly a huge problem in our country and still is. The lack of concern over the issues at hand (50 million people without coverage) served as reminder of what politics is – defeating your opponent’s idea, no matter how good and, in this case, no matter how much it resembled your own idea. If people defeat the idea, my question is what do you propose to do to help with the underlying problem?

These two posts, with the help of others, were issues that I hoped would resonate. The fifth most widely read post of mine, which I also hoped would resonate is The Rich and the Rest of Us written on October 20, 2012. This post is based on a book on poverty in America written by Cornel West and Tavis Smiley. The sequel post did not fare quite as well, but the identification of the most misunderstood issues of poverty was well-received by readers. I hope people picked up a copy of the book as it is a must read.

The two posts that surprised me were written in tribute to two people – one alive and one dead. Tribute to a Great Boss written on December 5, 2012 was written a couple of days after a jubilant and melancholy send off of my old boss who retired. In retrospect, I think people crave an ideal boss, so they wanted to see how one acted. He does not know I wrote this and he would probably would shake his head and say “damn” but he is due this tribute. He was funny, supportive and would help you succeed. Thanks for sharing his story with me.

The deceased person was written about in Jim Croce – A Voice Quieted Too Soon, penned on September 29, 2012. It turns out many of you feel about Jim Croce the way I do and it showed. I probably know more of his songs word for word than those of any other artist, as they had so much meaning. Our friend Z says she likes these “tribute to songwriter posts” the most of what I write. I will try to keep them coming for you Z, only if you must promise to continue telling your wonderful stories with pictures and words.

Let me turn the spotlight for a minute on the many wonderful writers and photographers I visit at least every other day, in addition to Z. I shared with Hugh and Barney, two of my favorites, that what they write on their posts is consistently of high quality and beats the pants off most pundits I read in the paper and online. They cover a greater number of important topics than the pundits and try to be as judicious as possible in their writing. I know if I start listing names of some of my favorites, I will omit someone who I think is top drawer as well, so please forgive me, but here goes: Emily, Jenni, Judy, Amaya, Donna, Roseylinn, Lisa (there are two more besides Z), Vincent, Varun, Jots, Toby, Grandma, Tazein, Jasmine, Clare, our Tennessee liberal at D&O, Chicks with Ticks, plus others who I will be most embarrassed when I realize I failed to mention them. There are some new ones I am learning more and more about like Cristian, Cranston, Rosemarie, Harsh, et al, so I hope to see more of what you do. Some of these excellent writers need to write more, as I go through withdrawal pains when their day-to-day lives interfere with their writing. You are missed when you stay away, but always appreciated when you return.

Well, thanks for letting me wax on in this 201st post. And, many thanks for reading the first 200. Your time, interest, encouragement and commentary is greatly appreciated. Best wishes, all. And, keep on writing.

Les Miserables and Social Injustice

My wife and I have long been fans of the musical Les Miserables, so yesterday we took two of our children to see the recently released movie with Hugh Jackman as the lead character of Jean Valjean. We were not disappointed and enjoyed the movie immensely. Of course, a few people have noted some of its imperfections, yet on the whole, it is a very moving experience and fills in a few details that the play could not.

As an aside, I also enjoyed the dramatic movie made a few years ago with Liam Neeson in the role of Valjean. As for the recent musical version, I would encourage you to see it , whether you have seen the play, early dramatic movie or not. If you have seen the play, you will be even more moved by Anne Hathaway’s Fantine singing how life has killed her dreams. The music is so wonderful, sometimes the everyday tragedy  of social injustice shown in the play is overshadowed. If you have not seen the play, you will also find it enjoyable as did my teenage children.

I wanted my kids to see it for its storytelling and musical beauty, but it was also very good for them to see what poverty and injustice looks like. They have accompanied me on occasion to help with homeless families, but to see it from an omnipotent perspective like this fills in the back story and context for those in need. I mention this as Les Miserables, when translated to English means “The Miserables.” It also is reflective of a world we still live in, even in the United States with over 50,000,000 people in poverty.

There are many stories to be told in Les Miz, but to me there are three main themes of social injustice that resonate today. First, Fantine personifies the lot of many in the movie and in real life here in the US, that many live paycheck to paycheck, especially those in impoverished settings. It won’t give away too much of the story to say Fantine loses her factory job and has to turn to a life of prostitution to provide for her daughter. In the US, 47% of American workers are living paycheck to paycheck. That includes many who are beyond poverty levels, meaning even the lower middle class have just enough money to make ends meet. Those in poverty are living on a wing and a prayer trying to make ends meet, with a significant majority paying more than the needed 30% of their income for housing and utilities to maintain a reasonable standard of living. It should be noted that 40% of all homeless people in the US are mothers with children, the fastest growing segment in the US. To further illustrate this tragedy, of the homeless families the non-profit agency I volunteer with help, 89% are single parent women as head of household.

Second, another social injustice theme is the one between Valjean, an ex-convict who paid dearly for stealing a loaf of a bread and the policeman Javert (Russell Crowe in the movie) who relentlessly chases him for breaking parole. A quick sidebar, Valjean could not get a job with his “scarlet letter” of papers he had to carry with him. However, Valjean repays the kindness and decency afforded him by a priest (played by Colm Wilkinson in the movie who was the original Valjean on the London stage) by doing the right thing and treating others like he wants to be treated. The injustice is the fervent belief by Javert that a thief is always a thief and could not change. What Valjean demonstrates and later tells Javert “you are wrong and always have been wrong.” Valjean, like many, is conflicted with trying to do the right thing and taking advantage of the circumstances to hide from the law. By doing the right thing at great personal sacrifice and cost, he shows Javert you can change. He also learns the priest’s lesson of treating one another with decency and dignity. “There but by the grace of God, go I,” was not said in the movie but lived by Valjean.

Third, and most powerful, is the overwhelming discontentment by those in poverty. There are many more than just Fantine who are exposed to the extreme poverty of the streets. The movie does far more than the play ever could to show the filth and sickness brought about by living in such conditions. If you had a job, it was more about economic slavery, working a tireless, repetitive factory position. You dared not complain or you could be let go or “sacked” per the movie and replaced by another. If you did not have a job, without significant welfare help, people had to beg, borrow and steal. Or, in Fantine’s case, she first sold her possessions, her hair, her teeth and then her body as a prostitute.

Scrolling forward to today’s time, I have written two posts about Tavis Smiley and Cornel West’s book “The Rich and the Rest of Us.” This could have been the title to “Les Miserables.” One of the misconceptions noted in the Smiley/ West book about poverty, is poverty is not due to a lack of moral virtue. It is not defined by people who do not work hard. Poverty is the lack of money, period. The homeless families we help have jobs, sometimes more than one. They work hard trying to make ends meet and do the best they can. In these earlier posts, I have encouraged people to also read “Nickeled and Dimed in America” by Barbara Ehrenreich. She lived the life of minimum wage jobs in America on purpose to see if she could get by. Her major conclusion – minimum wage jobs perpetuate poverty.

If you are earning at that level, you are beholden to a life of eating cheaper poor food, the inability to afford healthcare, jobs where you are on your feet all day which affects your health and a general lack of sleep as you try to be a worker of multiple 15 – 20 hours jobs and being a parent. And, you dare not complain, as someone else can be brought in right behind you. In Les Miserables, this is why the people rebel. They “have-nots” are tired of being taken advantage by the “haves.” This is also a major lament I have with LIbertarians and many Republicans. We need some regulations to keep things fair. Otherwise, employers who tend to chase cheap labor, will always find someone cheaper to use and let you go. We need some laws to keep things fair for the worker. If you want to advocate a true Libertarian life, go read Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle.” The Robber Barons treated people just like the “haves” do in Les Miserables.

This is all about social injustice. Unlike people who perpetuate stories about welfare queens, etc. painting many with a broad brush of a few, we need to help people in need. I am all for empowering people to succeed. I am all for giving people opportunity to succeed. Yet, they have to climb the ladder of success. There are many who are not given this opportunity and are shunned as undesirables. They are treated with disdain and without any decency. Let’s lift others up and give them a chance to succeed. Like Valjean, let’s be enablers of success for others. I believe in the words “a community’s greatness is measured by how it takes care of its less fortunate.” The less fortunate could also be termed “The Miserables” or in French, “Les Miserables.”