AUGUST 27, 2015 THAT TIME AGAIN
Its time to get the stadium ready for the high school kickoff!
Its also time to get the fans ready for the college kickoff!
Theres a story in the local paper almost every day about another schools prospects as it wraps up its scrimmage games and training camp, preparing to open the season. I often find myself reading such articles without being completely up to date on the personalities involved.
This Monday, there was such an article labeled Duquesne. Duquesne is a local university that as recently as 1992 played lowly Division III football, though theyre now in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision.
Apparently its a well-financed university, as we shall see. The story began:
I guessed this Ferry person might be the Duquesne football coach. Ive heard his name before.
I wondered how theyd managed to find four Irish teams that knew how to play American football.
Thats a lot of touchdowns for a defense to allow. And for some reason, they seem to be proud of it.
Sounds like hes looking forward to kicking off the season next week.
Aha! That changes everything! A sharpshooting guard doesnt play football. No rifles are permitted on the offensive line. A sharpshooting guard might be a member of the security detail or the basketball team. That suggests Ferry is probably a basketball coach, and because Micah sounds like a boys name, Ferry must be the mens basketball coach.
AUGUST 24, 2015 ALL ROADS LEAD FROM ROME
Construction began 2,327 years ago on the famous Appian Way. In Italy, the old road leading south from Rome is lined with monuments and tombs of ancient patrician families.
I found a miniature modern version in Union Cemetery, on a hilltop across the river from my apartment.
These family tombs face the rising sun. They bear the names, from left to right, of Paletta, DeMao, Innocenzi, Ciappetta, Roperti-Dancsecs, Mazziotti, and Santoro.
AUGUST 20, 2015 ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A WEED?
AUGUST 16, 2015 PLEASE BUY A CHANCE FOR PEACE
Im still finding out more about Melanie. I recommend this performance of Gary Whites sad ballad, rawer and more evocative than Linda Ronstadts 1970 hit. And I also recommend these remarkable 2015 duets with a current music star. Cest la seule chose que je peux faire.
AUGUST 14, 2015 JOIN HANDS THEN, BROTHERS OF THE FAITH
My pastor from the 1960s, John C. Wagner, has passed away at the age of 84.
It was partly because of his suggestion that I went to Oberlin College, I recalled to his son John Jr. this week, and it was partly because of his example that I adopted Oberlins attitudes of peace and inclusiveness towards all humanity.
After leaving Richwood, Rev. Wagner left the pulpit. He was on the United Methodist Church conference staff and then served as an administrator and professor at United Theological Seminary before retiring at the age of 65.
According to the obituary, In retirement, he continued teaching at the Church of the Messiah in Westerville and the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. He was a wise, brave and compassionate man who took genuine risks for social justice. Against the wishes of his bishop and superintendent, he protested the segregation of churches in Mississippi in 1963, and the Columbus Athletic Club. He demonstrated against the wars in Vietnam, Nicaragua, and Iraq, and was an advocate for the full inclusion of all persons and perspectives in the UMC. Deeply Christian, he cherished his relationships with people of all faiths. He was intuitively kind.
Polio kept taking its toll on his muscles, his mobility, and finally, his breathing, but he never wavered in using his voice for love, justice, wry wit, and endless puns. A few years ago Yale reported, Since 2000 he has used an electric wheelchair and scooter. With Miriam's help John gets around very well and hasnt hit anybody. The obituary notes, John leaves behind Miriam, his wife of 62 years, who made his long life and ministry possible.
AUGUST 10, 2015 TRAVELOGUE
In the foreground: the Stony Creek Mill Pond, built in Michigan in 2003. Across the pond: a weaving shop, built in Georgia before the Civil War.
No, this isnt a photoshopped composite. Its a picture I took in a place called Greenfield Village during a vacation trip I took last month.
Since then, I've been arranging my photos and researching the places I visited. I saw a roundhouse and a round house. I pondered playing a contrabass triangle. I ate schnitzel, watched wind make electricity, and bought a blue Santa.
All the exciting details are in my new article Revisiting Michigan.
AUGUST 8, 2015 PRESIDENTIAL DEPARTURES
I described in this article how, as a high school student, I experienced the sudden termination of the John F. Kennedy era in 1963.
The next Presidency, that of Lyndon Johnson, ended when LBJ announced he would not be a candidate for re-election.
I was on a brief break from college and was at home with my parents that Sunday night, March 31, 1968. We watched the Presidents televised Oval Office speech. For more than half an hour he discussed the ongoing Vietnam War. Eventually he turned to Americas increasing doubts about what we were doing there.
In other words, I realized, Johnson doesnt want to get entangled in the upcoming Presidential campaign. Hes not going to run for re-election. But it took him another half minute to get around to saying it.
Yes, I thought, Im correct. Hes obviously bowing out.
It was this last sentence that apparently shocked everybody, but not those of us who were still paying attention after 40 minutes. We could see it coming.
Then the next Presidency, that of Richard Nixon, ended in his resignation.
Like most people, I had been annoyed by the occasional news reports casting suspicion on the leader of the free world following a relatively unimportant 1972 burglary at the Watergate. You can listen here to a caller on our morning show in 1973. Author Rick Perlstein explained, People want to trust the king. People dont want to believe this about their President. But eventually the revelations forced us to believe it, and Nixon had to quit.
On Thursday, August 8, 1974 41 years ago today it was announced that the President would be addressing the nation at nine oclock that night. They didnt say he would be resigning, but everybody knew it. In Washington, Pennsylvania, that afternoon, our TV3 crew was taping a Bronco League baseball game for a delayed cablecast starting at eight PM. We decided that when nine oclock rolled around, anybody watching our game would be switching channels to see Nixon quit. Therefore, we might as well interrupt the baseball playback and put him on our channel as well.
As we recorded the game at Washington Parks Bronco Field, during the first hour sportscaster Larry Schwingel explained to the viewers that they could stay with us and not miss the historic speech nor any of the ball game. That night during playback, Tim Verderber was at the controls. The game was playing on a U-Matic videocassette recorder which had audio/video inputs but also an RF tuner. We set the tuner to Channel 11. I was monitoring NBC on another TV set in the back of the control room. When NBC switched to the White House at 9:01, I cued Tim. He waited a second, maybe to let Larry finish a sentence, and then pressed the Stop button. The VCRs output switched from tape playback to tuner input, and Nixon was on TV3 as well as virtually all the other eleven channels of our cable system. When he finished 15 minutes later, Tim merely pressed Play again, and the baseball game resumed.
Then in the next decade, Garry starred on HBO'S The Larry Sanders Show. As the beleagured host of a late-night talk show, Larry often worried that his network was considering hiring someone else to take his place. Hey now!
JULY 27, 2015 BLUEFIN? YELLOWFIN?
Funny how memory works. I encounter the word abalone and think yes, thats a type of tuna. No, Im wrong. An abalone does live in the sea, but its a shellfish.
Whats the tuna word Im thinking of? Anemone? No, an anemone lives in the sea, but its a predatory polyp. Or an anemone also could be a flower that lives on land. How confusing.
For a type of tuna, Im looking for a similar word. Starts with an a. Artichoke? No. It has a b and an l in it, I think. Albino? Abdominal? Abominable? Abysmal? Albanian? Alabaster? Ali Baba? Algebra? Albuquerque? Abracadabra? I finally give up, knowing itll come to me later.
And five minutes later it pops into my head, totally unbidden.
Perhaps the difficulty arises from never having looked at the word closely before now. Obviously, it must have been derived from alba, white, and core, center. (And dont try to tell me, Mr. Webster, that it comes from the Arabic for the precocious camel, which is al-bakura. That would only put me back on the abracadabra track.)
JULY 24, 2015 DESCARTES BEFORE THE HORSE
Silence. We had been expecting more. I remarked, Seems Ive heard that before. It certainly qualifies as an old one.
I have a horse joke, offered Nick Taylor, the Episcopal priest.
Nick had to remind us of the famous saying, I think, therefore I am. You see, his horse had applied the negative corollary: Non cogito, ergo non sum. He was thinking not. Therefore he was amming not.
JULY 21, 2015 NOTHING AT RISK
My favorite Janis Joplin song wasnt released until after her 1970 death: Me and Bobby McGee, written by Kris Kristofferson. But I never completely understood the line Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose. Freedom means a lot more than that!
Only recently did retired sitcom writer Earl Pomerantz enlighten me on his blog. In essence:
JULY 18, 2015 REACHING FOR THE SAME PIECE OF CAKE
Earlier this week, the following situation happened to me for the third time in the last 20 years. (One remembers such scares.) Thats me in the red car, merging onto the expressway.
JULY 13, 2015 HE'D BUILD A GREAT, GREAT WALL
I suppose we shouldnt be surprised that Donald Trump quickly shot to the top of the polls in the race for the Republican nomination for President. For one thing, name recognition is a major factor. Trump is a celebrity running against politicians (14 of them so far). At this early stage, low-information voters may not know much about the others, but they have heard of The Donald.
Nevertheless, in a letter to the editor published today, Oren Spiegler of Upper St. Clair does register surprise. I find it stunning and sad that Donald Trump, the coarse, crude, arrogant, condescending loudmouth of the Republican Party, has soared to first or second place in polls.
Im not that stunned, because I think theres a second reason. A significant portion of Republican voters are themselves coarse, crude, arrogant, condescending loudmouths. Lets call them CCACLs. Theyve found in Trump a champion who speaks their language. He promises easy, simplistic answers.
Mr. Spiegler wonders whether any candidate is willing to display sufficient courage and decency as to challenge and attempt to disassociate the party from Mr. Trump.
Some have in fact registered disagreement with Trumps rantings. But I suspect his typical opponent doesnt want to denounce him too strongly, because after Trump drops out of the race, the opponent will need some Trump CCACLs to switch their votes to him. He doesnt want those voters to have written him off as a coddler of immigrants, an unpatriotic Donald hater.
JULY 12, 2015 A HUNDRED NAMESAKES
Scientists estimate there are 3,800 Americans who, like me, are named Thomas Thomas. Or maybe its 700. Depends on the methodology.
* * * * JULY 2, EVENING
I wish I had the kind of relationship with my neighbors where I could tell them to knock it the hell off with the fireworks.
* * * * JULY 4, MORNING
I wonder if my neighbors would be as patient with me setting off fireworks at 8 in the morning as I was with them at 11 last night.
Watch Independence Day today and celebrate the American tradition of making bad choices thinly rationalized by patriotism.
* * * * JULY 4, AFTERNOON
Sitting out in the heat waiting for the 4th of July parade and fireworks because I love my family more than I love my own comfort.
Parade float throwing peanuts instead of candy: You're like the Halloween house handing out raisins. If raisins were a fatal allergen.
O hai! Ominous clouds! Gusty winds on the 4th of July, because for a little while there I was worried some moron with homemade bottle rockets wouldn't cause a wildfire.
Marvel must be feeling pretty cocky that Captain America T-shirts have now become acceptable patriotic clothing.
* * * * JULY 4, EVENING
Boom Boom Pow has replaced Neil Diamond's America in the fireworks show. I want my country back.
Going to sleep is just a foolish wish at this point, because SPLOSIONS.
Yes, I know you want to be setting off fireworks at 11:30. But see, your want to exists in a world of laws and other people. Dickhead.
Here's the thing: I generally think, How will my behavior affect other people? And I foolishly expect it should be a universal principle. And so I fume impotently on Twitter when I'd love to be sleeping. Lucky you.
When you think about it, the 4th of July would be the best time to shoot someone. my wife, insuring I will not sleep at all tonight.
[2-minute-long period of silence] Me: Dare I even hope? Laura: You shouldn't. You'll just be even more pissed off.
You know it's love when someone cares enough to remind you that hope is a futile endeavor.
* * * * JULY 5, MORNING
Early enough on a Sunday morning after a holiday that I might as well rant into the emptiness.
I make what jokes I can about the hey I'm launching fireworks at midnight thing, but it's one of many symptoms of a societal sickness. It's hardly a brand-new one I refuse to get all kids these days about it but it feels like it's getting worse all the time. It's an overwhelming brand of narcissism: What I want and what I feel are the only thing that exists.
When I see some a-hole weaving through traffic, there's no other conclusion to be drawn but Nothing else matters but my needs.
So much public debate seems to revolve around conflicts where people refuse to acknowledge that their position affects others negatively.
I'm rambling. Sorry. It just feels sometimes like the idea of a society is waved off as utopian by radical individualists.
No right is limitless. We can disagree on which rights have which parameters, but at least consider that parameters should exist. You do not have a 1st Amendment right to a religious practice that involves human sacrifice. You do not have a 2nd Amendment right to a nuke. Once we acknowledge those things, we can start having reasonable discussions about the responsibilities of living in a society.
JULY 4, 2015 WHAT ARE THEY SAYING?
Heres some insight Ive gathered from the Internet over the past week.
A conservative claims: I insist on Freedom of Religion.
A liberal responds: Good. People of all the different religions should be free to follow their own consciences.
The conservative actually means: I insist on the freedom from being required to live in a world that isn't run in strict accord with my religion.
A conservative claims: The truth is, it is in the Bible that marriage is between one man and one woman.
A liberal responds: No, it isnt! Stop saying that!
The conservative actually means: I know its in there. Maybe I cant find the chapter and verse; no scripture specifically, just the Bible. Of course, I use the Bible and my pastor at church interchangeably.
A conservative claims: Same-sex marriage undermines traditional marriage.
A liberal responds: Are you crazy? How is a straight couples marriage threatened just because two other people also get married?
The conservative actually means: Same-sex marriage may not weaken a traditional marriage that already exists, but it does provide another opening for willful people in the future to eschew holy matrimony. You see, marriage used to be a duty. When a man became an adult, he was expected to marry the girl arranged for him (or if he selected her himself, he had to obtain her fathers approval). His wife was obliged to submit to him, to stay home and take care of the house, and above all to bear him many babies. But the recent Supreme Court decision redefines marriage as an institution of love instead of oppression. Freedom has broken out. People feel free to make other arrangements as they see fit, even arrangements that don't include procreation. Needless to say, conservatives oppose such freedom.