The (other) revolution will not be televised

For better or for worse (and it’s mostly for worse), most of our news is delivered visually. And the old axiom of “if it bleeds, it leads” is more apt than ever before. People with their faces pressed against the statehouse doors? That’s a great photo op. White guys with assault weapons holding up signs? That makes for a clickbait-ready 30-second video loop. A crowded bar in Wisconsin is a novelty in novel coronavirus times, a car wreck that our eyes are drawn to.

George Romero’s next zombie film “Day of the Soon-to-be-Dead of COVID-19”

But while these fringe folks are dominating the latest news cycle (along with the Oompa Loompa in Chief), let’s not forget that the vast majority of Americans are acting in ways that are healthy, courteous, civil. Staying home. Limiting their contact with non-family members. Social distancing. Wearing masks in public. Respecting the rules that are set up to save lives. But there’s not a “hot story” in millions of Americans working together (albeit apart) for the common good.

Last time I checked, “Life” came before “liberty” in the Declaration of Independence. If we have to sacrifice a bit of the latter over a short period of time, to preserve the former, that makes sense to me. Especially when someone’s idea of “liberty” means overburdening the health care system and causing tens of thousands of needless deaths.

Rickey Dobbs explains it much more eloquently and entertainingly than I ever could, in this brilliant and hilarious post from his always-brilliant-and-hilarious blog Hitting the Trifecta. The post compares the “transmission rate” of motorcycle accidents to the transmission rate of coronavirus. Here’s an excerpt:

Here’s the thing: no one gives a White House Rose Garden rat’s ass about your “freedom” if exercising it results in a chain reaction that kills untold thousands upon thousands of people. Your freedom must be restrained, for the survival of all of us.

My personal preference, with regard to freedoms and such, is living. Further, I value keeping my grandma and mom and dad alive. I enjoy keeping my nephews and niece alive, too.

I’m willing to accept some risk in daily life. That’s why I drive a car, walk on the sidewalk, and use elevators. There’s a chance I could die from any of these endeavors, but it’s a tiny chance that is mitigated by safety measures. The risks to myself, but more importantly, to you and your kids, are tiny compared to the efficiency brought about by doing those activities.

But if it’s an actuarial certainty that your “freedom” will kill lots of nieces and nephews and grandmas, it becomes society’s obligation to make your exercise of your freedom conform to our collective, legitimate preference to remain members of CHOTSOD. (Club for Humans on This Side of the Dirt.)

So true. We have an obligation to play by the rules, for the greater good of society.

I get it, after 9 weeks in lockdown, everyone is a bit “shack wacky” as my friend Howard calls it. And I know small businesses are hurting, but they’ll suffer even more unless we stick with the plan. The health experts are saying we’re in the second inning of a nine-inning contest. We did a great job with #flattenthecurve but it’s way too soon to bail out now. Thank you for doing your part to #Stopthespike.

I’ve got a math problem

I can’t figure out how our youngest is 15 years old today.

Quarantine cake… and quarantine haircut courtesy of his older brother and an electric razor’s beard trimmer

Let’s see, 3 older siblings times one baby boy… carry the pumpkin seat… minus all those nights he toddled into our bedroom… divided by a million soccer games… yep, that adds up to 15.

He’s not much of a kid anymore but he’s still a great kid.

Creativity: it’s all about attitude

Creative individuals, by their nature, tend to defy the crowd. They resist merely thinking or doing what others are thinking or doing. Rather, they tend to go off in their own direction, seeking to propose ideas that are both novel and useful in some way. The greatest obstacle to creativity, therefore, often is not exactly strictures from others, but rather the limitations one places on one’s own thinking.

That’s an excerpt from this article (a research summary, really) from Robert J. Sternberg, a Professor of Human Development at Cornell University. It’s part of his Investment Theory of Creativity. Here’s more:

People are not born creative or uncreative. Rather, they develop a set of attitudes toward life that characterize those who are willing to go their own way… Such attitudes are teachable and can be ingrained in students through instruction that encourages students to think for themselves.

It is thus crucially important, especially in schools, to provide an environment that allows creativity to flourish—not just in word, but also in deed.

The entire summary is super-short, and well worth a read. It’s also well worth providing our kids with an environment that supports creativity. We’re all home-schooling right now, so there’s never been a better time.

I’m down. 89 down to be exact.

The weekly community newspaper in our area is thin on hard news and heavy with press releases from the volunteer PR people for the local schools and Rotary Clubs.

But I still subscribe, because each week they reprint the New York Times Sunday Crossword puzzle. As a hardcore cruciverbalist, I love trying to crack the code each week. There’s something very satisfying about filling in all those blanks.

And a few weeks ago, I finally was recognized for my dedication:

OK, sure, the clue is bogus. But a guy can dream, can’t he? Here’s the unedited version:

Hey, at least Damian Marley got top billing over his brothers Ziggy and Stephen!

And it’s still a thrill to see my name in the NYT crossword. When I was a kid, I didn’t really like my name that much because it was so unusual, and difficult for others to spell. But after meeting a million Johns and Bobs and Mikes, I started to warm up to it. It was different and weird… just like me!

Now here’s “that other Damian” with some tunes for you.

Love in the Time of Cholera. Art in the Time of COVID.

(My work) is not an answer, it’s a question. I think the world is coming to a place that raises a lot of questions: technology that can dehumanize us, the constant stimulation of information, of news, of everything. We have never been exposed to so much. That brings us to a place where the pace of things is so fast we don’t have time to step back and slow down and see what’s happening. I try to make it a very personalized experience. It has a meaning for me and it’s the reason I do it. But for you or someone who sees it, it’s what the art is saying to you. That’s the real meaning of the artwork, which I don’t own. The viewer owns it.

Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto, known as Vhils, in this Cincinnati Business Courier article.

Vhils first large-scale solo exhibition in the U.S. was supposed to be happening right now at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, but the center is closed due to the pandemic.

“You have to work on it every day or else you start to lose it pretty quickly.”

18-year-old Cincinnati artist Owen Gunderman, known as Tenzing.

Owen Gunderman (a.k.a. Tenzing) was supposed to have his first solo exhibition this weekend at a Cincinnati gallery. His upcoming high school graduation won’t be as festive either. And his dad (a friend of mine) has been working countless hours during the pandemic, as a senior director of emergency services (and interventional cardiac and radiologic services too!) at an area hospital.

Please check out the Cincinnati Magazine profile of Owen and his vlog below.

Greetings fellow Earthlings

Hat tip to Phil Roberto for the link to this wonderful message:

Let’s reframe our priorities, Citizen Scientists!

Optimism. Hope. Courage. Kindness. They never go out of style.

Have a Happy Earth Day… and the day after, and the day after…

Thousands die of “liberal hoax”

Thousands die of “liberal hoax”

Religion and politics… two topics one should never discuss in polite company. And I consider you, dear reader, to be quite polite company. But I’m gonna break the rule today. I can’t hold my tongue any longer (it’s part of the “don’t touch your face” rule). Feel free to bail out now if you’d like. I’ll be back to my usual Chuckles the Clown routine on this blog in 24 hours.

If you’re still with me, please spend 82 seconds watching this lil’ video:

Let’s review, shall we? It’s no longer one person, or 15. It didn’t “disappear, like a miracle” in April. it isn’t “totally under control.” We don’t have a vaccine.

Want more?

As of this morning, there are 713,503 confirmed cases, with 59,672 deaths. Think about that!

I could go on citing chapter and verse about the many ways our country’s president has failed the American people in a time of crisis. We needed a leader. We’re stuck with a liar.

Trump was warned about the looming pandemic in mid-January, if not sooner. On January 31st, he imposed a travel ban on foreign nationals who had been in China, because that move was right in his xenophobic wheelhouse. Then, for six crucial weeks, he did nothing other than to parrot lies.

This article from The Atlantic sums things up nicely:

The utter unpreparedness of the United States for a pandemic is Trump’s fault. The loss of stockpiled respirators to breakage because the federal government let maintenance contracts lapse in 2018 is Trump’s fault. The failure to store sufficient protective medical gear in the national arsenal is Trump’s fault. That states are bidding against other states for equipment, paying many multiples of the precrisis price for ventilators, is Trump’s fault. Air travelers summoned home and forced to stand for hours in dense airport crowds alongside infected people? That was Trump’s fault too. Ten weeks of insisting that the coronavirus is a harmless flu that would miraculously go away on its own? Trump’s fault again. The refusal of red-state governors to act promptly, the failure to close Florida and Gulf Coast beaches until late March? That fault is more widely shared, but again, responsibility rests with Trump: He could have stopped it, and he did not.

The lying about the coronavirus by hosts on Fox News and conservative talk radio is Trump’s fault: They did it to protect him. The false hope of instant cures and nonexistent vaccines is Trump’s fault, because he told those lies to cover up his failure to act in time. The severity of the economic crisis is Trump’s fault; things would have been less bad if he had acted faster instead of sending out his chief economic adviser and his son Eric to assure Americans that the first stock-market dips were buying opportunities. The firing of a Navy captain for speaking truthfully about the virus’s threat to his crew? Trump’s fault. The fact that so many key government jobs were either empty or filled by mediocrities? Trump’s fault. The insertion of Trump’s arrogant and incompetent son-in-law as commander in chief of the national medical supply chain? Trump’s fault.

For three years, Trump has blathered and bluffed and bullied his way through an office for which he is utterly inadequate. But sooner or later, every president must face a supreme test, a test that cannot be evaded by blather and bluff and bullying. That test has overwhelmed Trump. Trump failed. He is failing. He will continue to fail. And Americans are paying for his failures.

all text in Italics above from this article in The Atlantic by David Frum

Want more? I’ve got more. Here’s an excerpt from another piece in The Atlantic, written by a lifelong Republican, Peter Wehner, who worked in the three previous GOP administrations.

And when a reporter tries to call him out on the do-nothing gap, he resorts to his usual ad hominem attacks.

Peter Wehner actually wrote something very prescient in January of 2016… he recounts it in the article above. Here’s the passage:

I hope and pray that this crisis will be “totally under control.” That can start on November 3rd of this year, and maybe by January 20th of 2021, it’ll “disappear, like a miracle.”

In case you need it, here’s a video that shows you how to unsubscribe from a WordPress blog.

R.I.P., J.P.

Below is a blog post I wrote in 2018, when John Prine’s most recent album came out. We lost him to COVID-19 10 days ago. It was a massive loss not just to the music community, but to literature, and humanity. Because he had a way with words like few others, and he was by all accounts a kind, funny, caring, gracious, humble person. We could use a few more cats like that.

I’ve got another blog for most of my music musings, but John’s bigger than that. Check out the post below, and I’ve added a YouTube video of a house concert he did in 2018. Well worth a look and listen.

Blog post from April 2018:

John Prine has a new album out tomorrow.

Friday the 13th is our lucky day, because the new album is fantastic. Which is par for the course for Mr. Prine, a living legend who ranks right up there with Dylan and Townes Van Zandt in the songwriting pantheon. If the old adage about the Velvet Underground is true — they only sold 1,000 copies of their albums, but every person who bought one started a band — then for John Prine, every person who bought one of his albums became a songwriter. His music can best be described as “Americana” but really HE is Americana. A boy from the ‘burbs of Chicago, an Army vet, a former mailman, a cancer survivor, a folkie whose music is both timely and timeless.

You can stream the entire album on NPR.

You should stream the entire album on NPR.

You must stream the entire album on NPR.

It’s good for your heart and good for your soul.

(Or if you’re a lazy bum, you can just check out this song from the new release, featuring background vocals from Brandi Carlile.)

God bless John Prine.

House concert from 2018:

Lockdown is boring

My big sis Jeanne lives in Brooklyn with her husband Michael and their youngest child, Chris. They’re safe and sound, thank goodness, but my sister’s work shut down, so she’s had plenty of time to ponder the mysteries of the universe (and perhaps her Netflix queue).

She’s come up with a list of “Things to ponder when you are bored”:

  • You are a bit disoriented when you wake up like that was a terrible nightmare and then you realize that you’re waking up to live the nightmare. 
  • You hear sirens all day long. On weekend nights when your kids were young and out late, you prayed they listened when you said “don’t drink and drive.” Now you pray for other reasons.  
  • Your husband doesn’t know which bandanna to choose (thank goodness you ordered them before “currently unavailable”). He ponders whether to align with the Crips or Bloods and opts for both. 
  • You used to skip lunch at work now it’s a five star production.  
  • Your unwind beverage of choice was a nice glass of Cabernet.  Now it’s straight Gentleman Jack. 
  • You eccentric father who never believed in doctors believed peroxide could fix most ailments: teeth, skin, etc.  Who knew?  
  • How can you not purchase a Dr. Anthony Fauci bobble head?  
  • Amazon Fresh says they update delivery availability throughout the day.  They lie. Fresh Direct doesn’t even offer a future delivery date to choose.  
  • I always wanted to live in Montana.  
  • I forgot my ID on my last walking adventure to NYC.  I was not able to get an Ezra Keats Snowy Day library card. My husband brought his ID and got his. He doesn’t even know who Ezra Keats is. I read, he bought the kids candy.  
  • I have a drawer that must have 10,099 buttons.  
  • J Crew sent me a spend $100 get $50 free coupon.  That’s not happening.  
  • A liquor store is considered an essential business.  Go figure.   

Hang in there, sister. Things will get better someday…

Essential personnel

Today’s Google Doodle sends love to the “doctors, nurses, and medical workers…”

My wife’s an RN, so I’ll certainly second that emotion. The healthcare community is going above and beyond. Actually, it seems above and beyond to most of us, but it’s par for the course for them. We’re just a bit more cognizant of it now, and we offer them a hearty salute.

That said, I also think we need to give a shout-out to the other types of “essential personnel” who aren’t getting the props they deserve. Like the folks making minimum wage at the grocery stores, trying to keep products on the shelves for the toilet-paper-starved masses.

Doctors, nurses and medical workers likely knew what they were signing up for. The dudes and dudettes at restaurants (carryout only!), gas stations and grocery stores are being exposed to dozens if not hundreds of people every day, for low wages, long hours, and likely zero benefits.

And let’s not forget the factory workers, the truck drivers, the delivery people… everyone in the supply chain who is working OT to keep up with demand, not just for food, but also for medical equipment like masks and gloves.

We take it for granted most of the time. But I hope we’re a bit more appreciative now.

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