Eclipsed by a Fidget Spinner

by John K. Adams

There is nothing more charming than seeing children, faces all aglow, quietly joined in the group activity of staring at their respective smart phones. Not a word passes among them while their thumbs furiously tap the keyboards.

I don’t have a ‘smart phone’ because I don’t like taking orders from an inanimate object that is smarter than me. A Harry Potter character had to contend with the question of ‘talking to something that doesn’t have a brain’ and I think it didn’t end well. Having too many distractions in my life, I need to make an appointment just to have time to fidget.

Sports events are the perfect time suck. Sports are usually described as a proxy for warfare. While that may be true for the participants, sports serve a greater need by allowing observer to forget his immediate circumstances while projecting his desires toward the outcome of a grander spectacle. And that is alright. People need downtime to unwind.

To maintain interest, the game is chock full of little nuggets of set-up, tension, release. A single game might have hundreds of these; maybe several in a minute. Wash, rinse, repeat. These triads of tension are perfect for distracting one from anything important. And the cumulating results take on a sense of importance in the mind, far beyond any actual tangible result. You don’t think those rooting for a team feel empowered by a win? Tell that to those burning cars outside the stadium.

Set-up, tension, release. That is the basic structure of any roller-coaster ride, drama or the intertwining events of our complicated lives. One writer I know told me he structures every scene he writes, regardless of the content, as if it was a sex scene with set-up, tension and release.

Is there a correlation in our world to falling viewership of sports events and falling birthrates to the advent of the new device known as the fidget spinner? Please tell me I am joking.

Never in history have so many had so much free time. To what purpose are we biding all this time? Is this what Jefferson meant when he wrote “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Fidget Spinners”?

To an extra-terrestrial visitor it would appear we were at the height of our civilization… ripe for decline. Perhaps alarmingly, so much of this restless energy is astoundingly self-focused. What will that army of the idle do when fidget spinners no longer distract them?

You may not have noticed but the United States recently experienced a total eclipse of the sun. Thousands of people traveled hundreds of miles to witness this confluence of apparently random events to generate a massive cosmic coincidence.

It was a remarkable spectacle. By that, I mean the hype, not the eclipse.

Various groups projected meaning onto this event and have claimed it as their own. New-agers divined a manner to interpret the eclipse using personal numbers to determine your cosmic identity. I am told I am a “Ruler of the Divine.” Uh-huh.

Some Christians saw the eclipse as a sign of the pending apocalypse. Social Justice Warriors (SJW) called the eclipse ‘racist’ because it was seen by white people. ‘Scientists’ cited it as evidence of global climate change. I witnessed verbal attacks by ‘true believers’ on those expressing disinterest in the eclipse.

Taking a step back from the cosmos (just for a second), the eclipse is really just the syncing of the moon’s revolving around the earth with its passage between the earth and the sun. The earth’s rotation creates the illusion that the sun and moon are moving against each other. It is mechanical and predictable. It happens all the time. Synchronicity depends on us to project meaning onto a phenomenon. Climate change and my personal numerical identity have nothing to do with it.

How great is our need for distraction that thousands will travel hundreds or thousands of miles for an event that takes less than a minute to observe? (Honestly, Stanley Kubrick did it better in “2001, A Space Odyssey” and with music!)

With all this spinning and revolving on such a grand scale, one is reminded of how cycles and circles play a huge part in our lives. Didn’t someone at Disney say something about ‘the great  circle of life’?

Looked at in that sense, our whole solar system and by extension, the universe, is just an elaborate (and profoundly complex) fidget spinner. In that light, we who are made in the image of the Ruler of our universe can be amused by that thought. The question must be asked though, what happens when the Spinner of the cosmic fidget spinner stops being amused?

 

 

Liberals are Suffering the Seven Stages of Grief

Even if you are not aware of the “7 Stages of Grief” originally conceptualized by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, you may have experienced them at some level in your own life. Recovery from grief is possible. The Kubler-Ross model is not the best model for grief recovery but it suits my purposes here.

Let me illustrate the seven steps by examining the behavior of many liberals since the 2016 Presidential Election. Please note that individuals and groups can exhibit more than one of these steps simultaneously and they do not necessarily follow in specific order.

SHOCK:                 Lots of people were shocked when ‘sure thing’ Hillary Clinton failed to win the 2016 election for U. S. president. It just didn’t seem possible. For shock, look no further than the election night coverage. As the returns dribbled in confirming state after state going for Trump, the glib self-assurance of the mainly liberal commentators visibly drained from grinning to chagrin, betraying a sinking awareness that their prognostications were horribly off mark. As the tone sank from smug to glum one could almost hear their thoughts sifting frantically through mental rolodexes for whom they could call should they find themselves jobless on Wednesday morning.

DENIAL:                It didn’t take long for denial to set in. The shrill wailing and gnashing of teeth began before the voting machines had cooled. Calls for vote recounts began almost immediately and Green Party candidate Jill Stein spent millions of dollars attempting to ‘fix’ a faulty outcome and ‘restore the integrity of our voting system’. Hillary Clinton and others cheered this effort after ridiculing winner Donald Trump for expressing before the vote, his concern that Democrats might once again try to steal an election.

The irony that Democrats instinctively resist attempts to establish election integrity safe-guards such as voter ID requirements was lost only on Democrats.

Another example of denial would be that Hillary Clinton insists that “she won” the election because she gained more popular votes. The fact that popular votes have never been decisive in choosing our president shows the lengths people will go to support their denial. Or would that be called ‘delusion’?

ANGER:            There are too many examples of anger to cite here; violent campus riots, faked hate crimes, fake news, and everyone’s favorite, calls for impeachment. Democrats started calling for Trump’s impeachment prior to the inauguration and continue to this day.

According to our Constitution, in order to impeach, an actual crime must have been committed by a sitting president. That pesky requirement won’t go away. Additionally, the Democrats lacking control of either house of Congress is another stumbling block that these wannabe demagogues can’t effectively ignore.

Name calling is a favorite tactic of people devoid of ideas. Those who routinely condemn “hate speech” think nothing of calling Trump and his supporters a fascist, racist, blank-o-phobe (fill in the blank), hater, anti-semite and worse. This tactic, and voter’s weariness of it may be one factor in Trump winning. The fact that many of the protesters embrace and practice those very behaviors they claim to abhor and project onto Trump is disturbing.

Of course, the whole Russia-gate scandal started within 24 hours after the election and despite the lack of evidence (that would be zero evidence) Trump colluded with Russians to steal the election, multiple investigations continue six months into Trump’s presidency. How is it that the best intelligence agencies in the world cannot find evidence of criminal activity by such “a foolish, ignorant troll”?

If collusion existed, would it look something like former President Obama telling Russian President Medvedev that he “would be more flexible after he is re-elected”? Or would it look more like then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signing off on the sale of 20% of U.S. uranium reserves to a Russian owned mining company?

BARGAINING:   This stage is just now coming to the fore. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer offered to cooperate with President Trump on healthcare “if he ditches the Freedom Caucus” and does it Schumer’s way.

Other Democratic leaders, such as Nancy Pelosi are trying to quell the silly demands for impeachment from Rep. Maxine Waters, Sen. Cory Booker, Rep. Al Green and others.  Once Democrats regain both houses of Congress you can expect that chorus to rise once again.

After months of former FBI Director James Comey being condemned by the left for his betrayal of Hillary, Trump thought firing the director would be seen as a peace offering, a chance to meet in the middle. Of course, it is not about Comey or anything else, but only about stopping Trump no matter what he does.

Trust that all bargaining overtures are merely a ploy to co-opt Trump and separate him from his constituency, the better to sacrifice him.

DEPRESSION:     Can you say ‘snowflake’? This stage set in early and continues like a low-grade fever throughout the leftward end of the political spectrum. Universities set up ‘safe spaces’ with ponies and soft blankets for students who just couldn’t cope with the fact that Trump won. Reality can be so inconvenient. It’s not fair! I’m going to hold my breath until Hillary is President.

I know of one graduate student who retreated to her bed for over a week after the election. In doing this, she literally abandoned her mental health clinic internship until she found the strength to cope. The clinical responsibilities she abandoned included providing therapy to several chronically mentally ill clients.

TESTING:             The typical Democratic playbook needs some rewrites. Hysterically calling anyone you disagree with a racist doesn’t send people scurrying to the shadows like it once did. Playing the Russia-gate card is also reaping diminishing returns. One former Democratic Congresswoman, Nina Turner says people at town hall meetings aren’t asking about Russia, they’re asking about jobs. Go figure.

ACCEPTANCE:    Sooner or later the individual suffering from debilitating loss eventually comes to a place of peace and acceptance from where they can re-enter society and contribute in a positive manner. Of course, acceptance does not necessarily mean agreement or approval.

Grief can be a debilitating condition that inhibits one’s ability to manage simple tasks and maneuver through the day and through life. It affects one’s ability to maintain healthy relationships. Grief can sap one’s ability to successfully defend those people and ideals one holds dear. Grief is a necessary emotional process, but if one gets stuck, grief can keep one from living a full life.

The population I have used to illustrate the concepts of the Seven Stages of Grief may yet reach the point of acceptance in their recovery. I certainly hope so.

But I haven’t seen it yet.

….

John K. Adams is a writer, video-memoirist and a certified Grief Recovery Specialist who works in Los Angeles, CA.

How My Dad Solved the Cuban Missile Crisis

My father was a confident man. I never saw him anxious for anything. If he ever was, he kept it to himself. Even in the face of his own impending death, he put his concerns aside to comfort his loved ones, assuring them that all would be well.

He joined the Marines after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. He fought in the South Pacific until he returned stateside for officer’s training school.

While in the Solomon Islands, he was assigned to the radio corps. Once an island was ‘pacified,’ his job was to lead a squad past any remaining resistance to the highest point on the island and install an antenna with which to establish radio communications to the outside world.

Hauling radio equipment up a mountain can’t be that easy. Doing so while an enemy is shooting at you would be nigh impossible.

I think, after surviving that, everything else was just gravy for him.

At the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in October of 1962, the threat of nuclear war was a big deal. A few years before, Nikita Khrushchev had declared “We will bury you.” Now they were installing ballistic missiles in Cuba, aimed at us. What next?

Nowadays, nuclear annihilation is just one more item on the menu of devastating threats.  But then the weight of potential nuclear conflict was palpable.

I remember the many air raid drills conducted at my school. The idea that hiding under my desk would protect me in the event of a nuclear attack, seemed fanciful to me even then.

The poster advising citizens “In the event of nuclear attack, tuck your head between your knees and kiss your ass good-bye” had not been published yet. However, it perfectly captured the ironic sense of those drills. Mass incineration might be our collective fates, but at least we would be orderly and quiet.

At that time we lived in Wilmar, a farming town in central Minnesota, about two hours west of Minneapolis, out good old Highway 12.

The news on radio and TV incessantly explored all the ramifications should war break out.  Every night WCCO would broadcast a map of Minnesota. The animated overlay graphically depicted the radius of damage we could expect should an atomic bomb hit Minneapolis. Concentric circles would radiate out to 100 miles in every direction from ground zero. It was terrifying.

Everyone I knew was anxious. We had no context from which to judge these dire threats to everything we had ever known. Those Russians were crazy.

One promising solution was to build a private bomb shelter. The news talked about these and Popular Mechanics magazine published an article describing all the things a shelter should contain. It would be cramped but safe. It was do-able.

Dad had been through the war. I gathered some friends and approached him about the feasibility of building such a shelter.

He said, “You don’t need it.”

“Why not? The maps say the explosion will reach 100 miles and Wilmar is 100 miles from Minneapolis.”

“But we live on the west end of town. The radiation will never reach us.”

His perfectly reasoned argument put our minds at rest. Days later, the crisis was over. The Russians had blinked.

My Dad was so smart.

Judging this Judge’s Judging

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”  – Lewis Carroll

The question is, says me, whether declaring one’s self a master, makes you one in fact. (I’m with Alice.)

There is a disconcerting trend I have encountered of people thinking, nay feeling, they must not judge others or anything lest they betray a bias that all things are not alike.

This seems to be a severe misreading of a statement from the Christian Gospels (Matthew 7:1–2) wherein Jesus admonishes us “judge not lest you be judged”.

This misunderstanding can be illustrated by a graduate student’s reaction, on hearing about women in Iran being stoned to death for an offence most westerners would deem minor. She curled into a fetal position and said, “I don’t want to judge. Every culture has its standards.” Really?

Pope Francis added fuel to this confusion when he reportedly said, “Who am I to judge?” in response to a question about the gay lifestyle. What he actually meant may never be known. That he was speaking for himself and not claiming infallibility in his statement may bring some clarity to what may be a paraphrase or a bad translation.

One cannot survive for long in this life without exercising discernment about what is the best course of action, or who are the best companions with whom to spend time. All behavior is not of equal weight or value. Everyone makes choices. Choices have consequences.

The quote from Matthew is more about ourselves being judged by the standard we set for others, than whether or not to judge at all.

I have been a victim of such muddy thinking myself. I once thought I was an idiot. However, it soon became clear this was not true. I was merely trying to fit in with my peers.

I came upon an article today: http://hotair.com/archives/2016/10/19/illinois-judge-cites-cisgender-subjects-transgender-bathroom-ruling/ .

The Federal Judge in the story (Jeffrey T. Gilbert) states in his ruling “High school students do not have a constitutional right not to share restrooms or locker rooms with transgender students whose sex assigned at birth is different than theirs.” Good to know he has read the Constitution. (Emphasis mine.)

I find several things about this statement to be curious. I am no constitutional scholar but I suspect the reason our founding fathers did not stipulate to such things in our Constitution is, to quote the Declaration of Independence, “We find these truths to be self-evident.”

The poor subject of this ruling, the young transgender woman (reportedly equipped with a penis), cannot understand why her need for privacy from those curious boys, might also excite the desire for privacy from those less curious girls, with whom ‘she’ now can share a locker room.

Does this Judge actually think the sex at birth is ‘assigned’ arbitrarily, by a fanciful nurse, to fill a quota or to rhyme with a Cole Porter lyric?

I am going out on a limb here by judging this Judge, but I always thought the sex of a newborn baby was ‘noted’. ‘Described,’ if you prefer.

Who would be served by making the answer to this primary question in anyone’s life, subject to a whim?

“Congratulations! It’s a… whatever.”

Mind you, this Judge is supposed to judge. He is a judge. Judging is his job. And this is the reasoning with which he arrives at his conclusions?

I’m merely speculating, but does anyone want to wager that this same Judge thinks there is a war on women? How would he know? Based on what obscure data?

How can there be a war on women if no one can identify exactly what the nature of a ‘woman’ is?

It might be illustrative to look inside a women’s locker room to see what one looks like. Or not.

If ‘womanhood’ is a status of one’s thought, this judge would have to be a mind reader to find a woman. Mind reading is a skill I never found useful in divining the thoughts of any woman I’ve ever known. But who am I to judge?

Who would identify as a woman if they knew war was being waged on them? Wouldn’t women wishing to avoid this gender war merely change that identity and go blithely about their lives?

But then they might be forced to wage war on women too.

Is that what this Judge is doing?

 

 

‘The Civil War Remembered’ and relived at Eclectic Company Theatre

ON SEPTEMBER 22, 2016 COVER STORY

By John K. Adams

It has been said that we are not in history, but that history is in us. History exists in the hearts and memories of the living and those who lived and who passed their stories down to us. History lives and breathes and bleeds because we do. The Civil War Remembered, at the Eclectic Company Theatre, is a play written and produced in that spirit.

This play is no drowsy history lesson. It is made for those who love our history and are curious about what makes us tick as a people and as a country.The living souls who experienced that war, on either side, tell their stories through a surviving letter or a family account that keeps their memory alive.

The Civil War Remembered explores the ideas that divided our country; divided families to the point of death; tore lovers apart; broke people; made others rich – and made us, with all our flaws, who we are today.

Writer/director Maureen Lucy O’Connell makes a living history from the letters and newspaper stories of the day and presents an intimate portrayal of people of the day, with living actors to make it real. Imagine history more real than what you see on twitter or Facebook today.

Meet the black journalist, Thomas Morris Chester, who investigates and tells what he found.

Then, the saga of a farewell letter, sent to a dying officer’s betrothed, but tragically never delivered.

Learn of Ellen Bond, a house servant recruited by a Union spy, Elizabeth Van Lew, to observe and pass information to support the Union cause.

And of course, there’s Mary Todd Lincoln—wife, mother and one who struggled with many demons besides being the wife and very visible first lady for President Abraham Lincoln. Her memories of the war, loss and the strife within her household bring many difficult realities to life. See the young woman disguised as a drummer boy, so she could follow her lover into battle, and never part.

Songs of the day are sung as they were then, a cappella, and with full hearts and joy.

Producer Siobhan Gilreath hopes The Civil War Remembered will reach students of all ages and inform us about what that war means today. She hopes to offer an alternative to standard fare with an actual live performance in a neighborhood theater that the whole family can share and relive together.

This is a play of flesh and blood and ideas celebrating what makes our country great.

“The Civil War Remembered” is staged through October 16th at the Eclectic Company Theatre located at 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd. in Valley Village. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. Ample free parking is available. For more information email spooniad2014@gmail.com or call (818) 643-1662.

Note: This interview appeared in the Tolucan Times on September 22, 2016.

‘Julius Caesar’ brings ancient Rome to Pasadena

Review by John K. Adams

What a pleasure it is to watch a well-wrought play, well staged.  William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at Pasadena’s A Noise Within, is that play. Wow!

You can still catch it, as it has been extended through May 24th.

The story depicts the conspiracy to assassinate a tyrant (Caesar), and its aftermath. Irony is undeniable as concepts of friendship, honor, and loyalty become conflicted and are twisted beyond recognition by the duplicitous conspirators.

The taut direction drives the plot relentlessly forward, as if in real time, and for the first time. Acting and technical credits are all superb.

I have never seen anything so chilling as the conspirators’ savage attack on Caesar, beautifully and horrifically choreographed by Ken Merckx. Ever the warrior, Caesar defends himself, until the moment he realizes his friend Brutus has joined the attack. Caesar collapses and they fall on him like wolves, screaming “Peace! Freedom! Liberty!”

With Caesar dead, these “honorable men” waste no time garnering power. The crowd’s loyalty is swayed with each mouthing of the words “honor,” “loyalty,” and other demagoguery. Civil war inevitably breaks out.

The moody lighting complements the stark economy of the set pieces where this tragedy, depicting ancient power struggles, plays out in a utilitarian present. Modern era long coats echo Roman garb without distraction.

Julius Caesar is intense, beautiful, moving, and suspenseful until the final blackout.

See it.

A Noise Within is located at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena. Information is available at www.anoisewithin.org or (626) 356-3100.

This review originally appeared in the Tolucan Times on May 22nd, 2015.

‘Fly’ with the Tuskegee Airmen at The Pasadena Playhouse

Imagine a world with no freeways. The only practical way to travel across country was by train. There were no smart phones, no internet, nor television.

This was before Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King, Jr. made their marks. It was a time when, by law, some men and women were restricted in their movements, actions and speech. It was a primitive time. Things hadn’t changed since the Civil War. But this time is not imaginary. Men and women living today remember it.

Fly, the play, tells the true story of living men, African-American men, who were the first to successfully challenge that system and lead the way to freedom.

It is the story of men learning to fly.

Using multimedia, dialogue and tap dance, they tell of human struggle and triumph, not as a history lesson, but so the audience sees through the eyes and feelings not of heroes but of men. They tell the inside story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first squadron of African-American fighter pilots.Writer/Director and Tony Award winner Ricardo Khan and his co-writer Trey Ellis have done something remarkable with their play Fly, which begins performances January 26th at The Pasadena Playhouse.

Chief Technical Consultant, Dr. Roscoe Brown, a veteran Tuskegee Airman said, “We knew there was racism. It wasn’t whether it would change, but when? We knew if we could excel, we could move things forward.” And they did.

Back then, the immediate threat was fascism. These men wanted to defend their country and defeat the enemy. And they conquered their own demons.

In 2008, surviving veterans attended President Obama’s first inaugural and received the Congressional Medal of Honor. 2016 is the 75th anniversary of that first Tuskegee Airmen class.

Mr. Khan states, “We want to make today’s generation understand a time when people were not just looked at as different, but were separated and kept apart, by law.”

He continued, “There are lots of forces seeking to divide us today. We need stories like this, to bring us together. It isn’t just about race either, nor politics, age or class, but our common humanity.”

Back then whole regions of the country were isolated from each other. Those first Tuskegee Airmen came from Iowa, New York, the southern U.S. and the Bahamas. They had much to learn from each other and about themselves.

During WWII, the Tuskegee Airmen conquered a multitude of concrete legal and social challenges. However, their story is universal. Today, each generation and every individual, must also break free of perceptual chains and self-imposed doubts before their spirits may soar.

See the play “Fly” from January 26th-February 21st at The Pasadena Playhouse located at 39 S. El Molino Avenue. For tickets and information visit PasadenaPlayhouse.org or call (626) 356-7529.

This piece appeared originally in the Tolucan Times on January 22, 2016.

Photos by Elias Feghali.

Distinctive Differences

Hans was the eccentric old guy at the photo lab, where I worked. He was a technician and good at his job. He came across as a kindly old gentleman with a German accent. He minded his business and didn’t bother anyone.

It seemed like everyone in Minnesota had an accent, German, Scandinavian or the weirdest mix of all, Minnesotan.

One day, while on break, he told me about growing up in Germany before WWII. Then he told me about joining the German army and fighting for the Third Reich in Yugoslavia. Then he told me about how their leader, Adolf Hitler, was misunderstood by the world. Poor old Adolf “did a lot of good things,” he said. With great power comes great forgiveness, as Spiderman says. No, wait.

Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” had been released a few years before. My impression of Hans blended with the hilarious, Nazi playwright from that movie, waxing ecstatic over “what a wonderful dancer” Hitler was. Hans wasn’t so demonstrative but he did insist ‘der Fuhrer’ was misunderstood.

A few years later, on my first day of film school in Tampa, Florida, all the buzz was about one instructor, Karl who was a former Luftwaffe pilot in WWII. All the Jewish students were anxious about taking his classes.

Not to worry, Karl, though as severe in countenance as his reputation would suggest, never betrayed any prejudice against any group or individual. He treated everyone with the same superior disdain in keeping with his perfectionist temperament. Considering the styles of some of the other instructors, Karl was consistent, predictable and a purveyor of solid technical information.

Karl also had a dry sense of humor. At least that is how we chose to see it. A fellow student, Bill, once drew Karl into sharing some personal history with us. He was pressed into the German military service as a young teenager and trained to fly a reconnaissance plane, which were unarmed. He spoke tersely of getting captured when a British squadron of fighter planes came out of the clouds and forced him to land.

Bill asked, “But since your plane could fly higher and faster than theirs, couldn’t you have escaped?” Karl gave Bill a look that would unnerve a hawk and delivered a perfect Teutonic response. “You never retreat.” For years we would quote him with our best approximation of his German accent.

Karl came to the United States when he was released from the POW camp. He never looked back.

Years later, in Los Angeles, I worked for his niece, Karola. When I interviewed with her for the job, hearing her last name, her accent, and seeing those familiar features, I knew she could be no one else’s kin. It was an unusual application of my ‘old school tie’.

In the ‘80s, I edited a ‘sword and sorcery’ flick in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a popular genre then. Before going there, all I knew about Argentina was their ‘open door,’ non-extradition policy that welcomed Nazis escaping prosecution after WWII. Mad Magazine always poked fun at their pompous, latter day fascism.

While visiting the set one day, the studio photographer approached me and introduced himself as Juan Schultz, in a curious, German/Spanish accent. In conspiratorial tones, he told me proudly about his being Hitler’s staff photographer. He claimed he documented Hitler meeting Mussolini, and shaking hands with the Pope. He challenged my disbelief with insistent defensiveness. Alas, photographic proof was lost in his hasty exit from Germany.

He escaped to Argentina and changed his name after the war, like many others, to avoid prosecution. He was well on in years, and it could have been true. A shame about that proof.

I’ll never understand why anyone would brag about that, even if true. It is hardly the stuff one puts on their resume. Or, at least I wouldn’t. But in Buenos Aires, it seemed to open many doors.

People cannot keep dark secrets from the light. The same qualities of character that lead us into dark actions, are those which cause us to proudly broadcast them.

My co-worker Hans was an Al Bundy type, nostalgic for the glory days of that game winning touchdown. How could condemning something so glorious be anything but the result of a misunderstanding?

Karl was not nostalgic. He was no ideologue. As anyone would, he pursued opportunities to forge a new life in his adopted country. But he didn’t trade on his past.

Juan was the oddest one. While successfully escaping responsibility for his participation in infamy, he also made his fortune from those associations. And within the right context, he burnished his reputation from his sordid past.

These three men are familiar types. Not specific to one time or place, they are found throughout humanity. We each find ourselves carried by the currents of history. How we choose to respond to those forces is what is telling.

 

 

Third Party Blues

“Uh oh! There’s only one more scoop of ice cream left. Not enough to split four ways. I guess I’ll just put in my bowl. No one will notice. More for me.”

Sounds like some politician “redistributing” wealth into his own pocket.

The prevailing ethical guidance I received from my mother when growing up was “Fair is fair.” That phrase was in regular use when any dispute arose.

The one who served was always the last to choose when dessert time came. It kept the server honest. What a concept.

My sister Jan was always on board for this. She became the dessert ‘meister’. Her servings of ice cream always surpassed expectations. She didn’t short herself, or anyone else. What a great sister.

In fifth grade I learned another principle of Distributive Justice.

My class had nine boys and thirteen girls. Our teacher, Miss Hendrickson asked for nominations to elect our class president.

There was no campaign, there were no responsibilities. It was a popularity contest. But Miss Hendrickson had a subtler lesson to convey.

The class immediately coalesced into ‘parties’ organically determined by gender, not ideology (gender is not an ideology, nor is popularity). We boys quickly realized that our four vote deficit put us at a huge disadvantage.

Who would be so primitive as to vote based merely on gender? Fifth graders.

A note to those who think there is no difference between the sexes. Try telling that to a fifth grader. Try getting three girls to switch their vote to the boy (or vice versa) and your theory will be dashed. Anyone would know they had more to lose than to gain by switching sides in that contest.

(Even if the boy was ‘cute’ only one girl stood to benefit by switching her vote. And she could expect to pay dearly for her fawning disloyalty.)

The girls gloated and the boys wailed as each side considered the implications of the uneven distribution of votes. It was an unsolvable problem.

The most popular boy, Barry, got nominated and seconded. The boys were grimly determined to vote as a block despite the certain defeat.

Of course, the girls nominated one of their own. However, factions formed and a dispute arose over which of the two most popular girls should be nominated. With shushing and demands for solidarity they settled on a single candidate. It would be a cake walk.

Then Barry did something outrageous and incomprehensible. Probably the smartest kid in the class, Barry broke ranks and nominated the second most popular girl for class president. How could he!

An immediate outburst of protest from the boy’s camp denounced this betrayal. Barry assured the boys that he knew what he was doing. Another boy seconded the nomination.

Despite Barry’s assurances, some purists in the boy’s camp continued to grumble about this travesty.

A girl asked Miss Hendrickson if it was legal for a boy to nominate a girl.

Smiling at the drama, our teacher said the nominations are open and students could nominate whomever and as many as they wish. She repeated that everyone can vote once for whomever they desire.

The girls realized that with the girl’s vote split, Barry might win. A flurry of whispering and emphatic gestures ensued. They tried to enforce party unity but with little success. And they neglected to counter by nominating a second boy.

I’m sure it is no surprise that Barry won the majority vote, straight down ‘party’ lines. The girl’s mixed loyalties blinded them and made Barry’s ploy a success.

I forgot about that little event until Ross Perot ran for president in 1992, on a third party ticket against George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. His splitting the Republican vote gave us Bill Clinton. Thanks Ross.

These days there is much discussion on both sides about possible third and maybe even fourth party runs for president.

I can’t wait.

 

2015 Faves and Raves

I cannot believe I have been blogging for over a year now, averaging about three posts per month.

My purpose in blogging is to share examples of storytelling or sharing from my own life, by way of example, for those who might be interested in writing a memoir, or for seeing how they might re-capture old memories to share with interested parties.

Below is a short list of some popular posts you may have missed, and some of my favorites which you might find worth revisiting.

My video memoir company, Storyography: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/11/20/no-one-can-stop-time-but-hearing-those-stories-again-slows-it-just-a-little/ , is another way to share stories which captures individual performance as part of the storytelling experience and not merely the words shared.

The biggest hit, which surprised me some, was “Mandatory Moon Bathing in Minnesota”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/he-was-naked-as-a-blooming-orchid/

I’m not sure why that one grabbed so much attention over others. Maybe the title intrigued.

Another relative hit was “The Best Cab Driver in Buenos Aires”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/long-may-he-ride/  which describes some of my experiences while working in that charming city.

Some of my posts are more autobiographical than others. Other posts are more opinion oriented. My favorite of these which didn’t get the attention I thought it deserved was “Greenman Died for Your Niblets”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/to-our-surprise-cheers-and-salutations-greeted-our-approach-to-the-gate-green-man-was-a-star/

Some of my posts amounted to musings about the human condition as viewed through a prism of my own experience. One example of this, which didn’t attract the attention I had hoped was “Swings”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/swings/ ,

or “Taxi Driver Uber Alles”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/each-second-is-a-threshold-to-eternity/ which I thought deserved more attention.

The Territorial Imperative” was about my encounter with a very assertive spider: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/i-cringed-at-the-memory-of-what-i-yelled-that-night-during-my-desperate-search-what-had-i-wrought/ .

That was a companion piece to the popular “The Company You Keep”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/08/18/to-say-this-house-was-infested-is-like-saying-forests-have-trees/ in which I recounted my futile war with cockroaches while in college.

I also published a few practical posts exploring the value of writing a memoir “The Irreplaceable Memoir”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/the-irreplaceable-memoir/

or a distillation of what I presented weekly in a workshop for job seekers on how best to find gainful employment. “The Best Solution to the Problem” was my summary of the workshop: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/09/16/the-best-solution-to-the-problem/ .

Godzilla”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/10/29/there-is-a-piece-of-godzilla-in-all-of-us/

and “The Show Must Go On” : https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/the-show-must-go-on/ share memories of my career in motion pictures.

My favorites probably fell in my recounting episodes of my life that were fun to write and (I’m told), hilarious to read. “Bad Hair Day”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/i-looked-like-a-psychotic-texas-ranger/ ,

A Knuckle Sandwich and a Side of Steroids Please”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/a-knuckle-sandwich-and-a-side-of-steroids-please/ ,

Sunny Sleepy San Raphael”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/09/16/judging-by-her-word-count-the-woman-was-winning-but-we-had-to-acknowledge-he-made-some-very-impressive-points-with-his-rare-interjections/

and “What’s in a Name, Jack”: https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/05/12/whats-in-a-name-jack/ are my favorites in that genre.

Much attention has been paid of late, to concussions, due in part to the Will Smith movie of that name. My post “Isn’t this Fun?” https://lifestoryography.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/isnt-this-fun/ deals with my personal experience with a concussion.

At risk of naming all of my posts, I will stop with this brief list of personal highlights. But feel free to revisit some of these and others. They all have something to offer and offer some amusement or a diversion from the tedium of the day.

Please feel free to comment or add to the conversation. I appreciate your input. Thank you for reading.

And you are welcome to visit my Storyography website at: http://www.lifestoryography.com/

See you next year.

 

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