The West Coast is on fire… after suffering through a “heat dome.” Lake Mead — which supplies water to multiple states — is drying up. What’s going to happen when places like Phoenix are uninhabitable? Where will the people go when there’s no water left?
We thought The Twilight Zone episode called “The Midnight Sun” was just a fever dream… but it’s coming true.
The word that Mrs. Bronson is unable to put into the hot, still, sodden air is ‘doomed,’ because the people you’ve just seen have been handed a death sentence. One month ago, the Earth suddenly changed its elliptical orbit and in doing so began to follow a path which gradually, moment by moment, day by day, took it closer to the sun. And all of man’s little devices to stir up the air are now no longer luxuries—they happen to be pitiful and panicky keys to survival.
An example of gerrymandering at its finest. Courtesy of the Republican party. Because if you can’t win fair and square, you have to try to win unfair and trapezoid… or rhombus… or whatever shape will give you the edge. But sometimes gerrymandering isn’t enough, and you have to resort to voter suppression.
This paragraph from an editorial in — of all places — a music magazine, really sums it up nicely:
Having lost the Presidency, the House, and the Senate over four years by margins so wide that Democrats were able to overcome the structural bias, Republicans have not responded as Democrats did, by trying to expand the elctorate, or convincing the existing one that their own policies and platforms merit a change. The entire story of 2021 so far has been Biden and his party trying to govern, at least trying to tackle dire emergencies it inherited , largely from four year of Republican inaction, incompetence, or inadequate response — a pandemic, economic devastation, worsening inequality, alarming climate change, decayed bureaucracy, etc., etc. — while the Republican party has spent all its time tackling the problem of… too many people voting.
The best response is to A. fight these voter suppression laws and B. vote, no matter the extra hurdles. (Easier said than done, I realize, when you are elderly and/or handicapped and the only mail ballot drop box is miles away. )
Here’s more from The Big Takeover editorial (bold emphasis mine):
But the ultimate effects of all this suppression and a fresh round of gerrymandering this spring won’t be seen until the next round of elections. Over the next two years, Democrats and others who believe in democracy had better stay vigilant, instead of making the classic midterm mistake that all is OK if their side won and is now in office. Memories fade, and the Capitol riot will too, especially if half of us insist upon it. But the effort to defend democracy against a party that has largely lost faith in it, will be as much the most important long-term effort we engage in alongside climate change mitigation and getting out of the pandemic alive. A responsible, accountable right of center party is crucial to our politics. But until the G.O.P. pays a steep enough electoral price for its big lies and continual partisan sabotage, it will never reform itself from within.
There are many reasons why folks from Central America are trying to migrate to the U.S. Some are fleeing violence and/or persecution in their home country. But an overarching reason that thousands make the arduous and perilous trek from their homes is poverty.
“I want a better future for my kids. Like our parents wanted a better future for us. That’s why we’re forced to take steps and leave our own country and risk our lives here, because necessity forces us.”
To give an example: owing in part to climate change, there was a record hurricane season last year, with the last two storms, Eta and Iota, striking Central America. As Nicole Narea explained in a recent article in Vox, the Northern Triangle countries—Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador—have been afflicted by climate-induced drought for a decade, leaving 3.5 million people facing food insecurity, but the floods from those two storms produced even more savage damage. Twelve hundred schools were damaged or destroyed; forty per cent of corn crops and sixty-five per cent of the bean harvest were lost. As a percentage of G.D.P., the damage is greater than that done by the worst storms ever to hit the United States, yet the people of these countries did comparatively little to cause the climate crisis—whereas the four per cent of us who live in this country have produced more greenhouse gases than the population of almost any other nation. So there’s really no way to pretend that migrants arriving at our southern border have no claim on America. Honduras could have built the biggest, most beautiful wall on its northern border, and our CO2 would still have sailed right across it.
Interesting, ain’t it? So if we want to help alleviate the border crisis, we should worry less about building walls, and focus more on reducing our oversized carbon footprint. The rising tide of border crossers is caused by the rising tide of the oceans. Illegal immigration is a symptom, not the disease. And the disease is spreading rapidly.
And it’s not as if this is an isolated case. As early as 2017, according to the organizers at climate-refugees.org, sixty per cent of displaced people around the world were on the move because of “natural” disasters, not civil conflict. In the past six months, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, about eighty per cent of displacements have been the result of disasters, “most of which are triggered by climate and weather extremes.” As Axios reported last week, using a projection model created by the Times, ProPublica, and the Pulitzer Center, “migration from Central America will rise every year regardless of climate change,” but, “in the most extreme warming scenarios, more than 30 million migrants would head toward the U.S. border over the next 30 years.”
VP Kamala Harris can say “do not come, do not come” all she wants. But let’s pretend the shoe is on the other foot for a second (ignoring the fact that shoes might be considered a luxury in the tiny villages of Central America). If your schools were destroyed, your food sources were wiped out and your livelihood was lost, you’d still come. No matter the cost, no matter the odds.
“The 2021 Presidential Scholars represent extraordinary achievements for our extraordinary times,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a news release. “I am delighted to join President Biden in saluting these outstanding young people for their achievements, service, character and continued pursuit of excellence. Their examples make me proud and hopeful about the future. Honoring them can remind us all of the great potential in each new generation and renew our commitment to helping them achieve their dreams.”
Like the Secretary of Education, I’m proud and hopeful about the future too. I’m also proud that half of the Presidential Scholars semifinalists in the entire state of Ohio — 11 kids — hail from the Cincinnati area. Two of these scholars (Aidan Finn and Anna Rahner) started their scholarly journey in the same Montessori classrooms as my kids. Three of the semifinalists attended Walnut Hills High School, where all four of our kids attended junior high, and three attended (or are still attending) high school. Another semifinalist went to McNicholas High School, also the alma mater of our oldest child and my lovely bride.
I’m not claiming any sort of transitive property that makes my kids super-scholars by association. But I do think grade schools like Sands Montessori lay a strong foundation for all the kids going to school there, and high schools like Walnut Hills and McNicholas help them blossom. The kids get the awards, but the teachers deserve a ton of credit for bringing out the best in their students.
“Our chief want in life is someone who shall make us do what we can.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
You can read more about the semifinalists in this story from Cincinnati.com. And you can read about the two area Presidential Scholars in this article. Aidan Finn, who started at Sands Montessori, is one of them. We know his family well, and couldn’t be happier for them. The qualities cited by the Secretary of Education include “service” and “character” and Aidan and his younger sister have that in spades.
Aidan founded Tutor Teens with his sister, Erin, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. The volunteer tutoring program matches Cincinnati area high school tutors to students across the region. There are tutors from more than a dozen local high schools in the program tutoring students from more than 70 local schools. The program is virtual and free.
Not that I need any more notoriety — this blog has thousandshundredstens a few loyal readers — but I managed to get a byline in the April edition of Cincinnati Magazine by writing the text to accompany some really cool photos (by Aaron M. Conway) of a local farm that grows hops.
The editor of Cincinnati Magazine, John Fox, is an old friend of mine. When I was working at an alternative music station, he was the editor of an alt-weekly, and the station and the paper would collaborate, cross-pollinate, and co-promote events often due to the large overlap in audiences. John will throw me a magazine assignment every now and then – usually something fairly straightforward and not too time-consuming. I enjoy the challenge, and I always wind up learning something new while doing research and interviews. For the hops farm piece, I got to interview one of the growers and connect with brewers at several local breweries… it’s a really tight-knit community and it was cool to witness the spirit of collaboration among them. I also learned quite a bit about the process of growing hops, and I found it quite fascinating.
If you’re keeping score at home, I’ve now done four pieces for Cincinnati Magazine over the past couple of years, and two of them have been beer-centric. I think I’m being typecast. Then again, if the shoe beer mug fits…
Jim Steinman passed away this week. This lede from American Songwriter sums up his oeuvre pretty well:
Jim Steinman, the songwriter famous for the super-charged operatic rock epics he created for Meat Loaf and other artists is dead at 73. He was a songwriter proud of his lack of restraint in his songs. Subtlety was not the aim. It’s how he proudly earned and owned his distinction as “The Richard Wagner of Rock. ” Like Wagner, his songs were epic, operatic and always with a dark grandiosity.
“If you don’t go over the top,” he said, “you can’t see what’s on the other side.”
Wagner, however, never wrote any hit songs. Steinman wrote many: The grand statement was the entire song cycle of Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell. He also wrote Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing At All” and Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now.”
Jim was over the top, but it took him to the top. He accomplished a real rock and roll rarity that I don’t think anyone else has matched: for a while in 1983, two songs written and produced by him, but recorded by different artists, held the top two positions on the Billboard singles chart, with “Total Eclipse of the Heart” at number one, and “Making Love Out of Nothing at All” in the number two slot.
Not many songwriters get credited on an album cover. But Jim’s contribution to Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell album was so crucial that he got cover props.
That album is one of the best-selling releases of all time.
And it almost didn’t see the light of day. Here’s the album’s producer, Todd Rundgren, on the Sound Opinions podcast, talking about how many music biz “experts” passed on the album, and how it finally caught on.
Jim Steinman also worked in musical theater – his bombastic style was tailor-made for the stage. And he released a solo album back in 1981, called Bad for Good. One of the songs on that album was “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” (later sung by Meatloaf and released on Bat Out of Hell II):
We’d be listening to the radio so loud and so strong Every golden nugget coming like a gift of the gods Someone must have blessed us when he gave us those songs…
Keep on believing And you’ll discover baby: There’s always something magic There’s always something new And when you really Really need it the most That’s when rock and roll dreams come through The beat is yours forever The beat is always new And when you really Really need it the most That’s when rock and roll dreams come through For you
“Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” by Jim Steinman
Jim Steinman wasn’t a Dylan, he wasn’t a Springsteen, but that wasn’t his goal. And he deserves a lot of credit for having a unique vision and sticking to it, and making his rock and roll dreams come through.