Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Moon Remains a Harsh Mistress

I wrote this six years ago when I thought my nation was losing its collective mind and soul. Little did I know that might have been our Golden Age. I thought you should know that before proceeding. 

Driving into work yesterday morning, as the mercury hovered not all that much above the freezing point making it dicey for Southern New England farmers to keep their crops growing, I had a long, hard look at what seemed to be just about  Disclaimer: a full moon.

I have no life, and spend a large part of it at work, driving to or from work or worrying about something connected to work. I don't get up in the middle of the night like my brother Adam (slogging across nearly endless miles today running in the New Jersey Marathon) because I have a few more miles on the odometer and neither the spirit nor the flesh is willing any longer, but it's still pretty early. In the spring and summer months, as the days lengthen, there's a lighter tint to the darkness rolling along Route 12 through Ledyard at a little after five, and yesterday the moon was sitting practically on the roadway on the horizon.

I remember as a kid, in Mrs. Hilge's classroom, 3-B, in St Peter's (sic) School in New Brunswick, NJ, as Sister Mary Immaculata put a radio speaker near the microphone in her office connected to the PA system so we could hear the launch of Alan Shepard. We were on our way to the moon and we would beat those Ruskie bastards (I should admit I don't think I knew the word bastard then; I caught up pretty fast) and plant our flag up there. 

I heard years later, in one of those stories moms tell to other adults about their now-grown children which shock the child because they never knew, one of the nuns (would have been Sister Stephen who never liked me anyway) asked me what I was most concerned about for the astronaut and I replied, 'how Mission Control will monitor his heartbeat during lift-off' when, seemingly, the correct answer was 'his immortal soul.' Even then....

Looking at the US effort to put a man on the moon, it's hard to not think, if, for just a moment, we had replaced God with Science (caps are deliberate in case there is a God or Science has truly replaced Him. I'm going to need brownie points from someplace). Who among us didn't want to grow up to be an astronaut? I hated Tang, and I still wanted to be one. Irony of ironies, I HATE flying in all forms. Take-offs and landings terrify me and once we're airborne it's a really boring bus ride at thirty thousand feet. 

Rome, a small city in the middle of Italy grew into the Roman Republic and then devolved into the Roman Empire before disappearing beneath the bread and circuses and the onslaught of the Vandals and Visigoths. Somewhere at some point in time, we've stopped being the greatest notion to ever become a nation and are now on our way to being another Carjackistan (sorry, Tank McNamara). 

My point is Great Nations Do Great Deeds. We, okay not me personally, but my parents and their parents (and ALL of our parents and grandparents before them), fought two world wars, endured a decade of deprivation we now call The Great Depression, retooled and rebuilt not only our own country but our defeated foes across the globe. We/they stared into the maw of mutually assured destruction and the gaping jaws of the Russian bear and he blinked and fell. A lesser nation would have stepped on its enemy's throat while it was down. 

A great nation would, and did, help the bear up and help it find its way even while, at times, losing our own and now our children's children will never be able to fully appreciate, much less share, so many of their grandparent's dreams. How did it happen that we cannot afford to live out loud? I look to the moon but all that I hear is silence. 

"I fell out of her eyes.
I fell out of her heart.
I fell down on my face.
Yes, I did, and I -- I tripped and I missed my star.
God, I fell and I fell alone, I fell alone.
And the moon's a harsh mistress,
And the sky is made of stone." 
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Follow Me Boys, I'm Lost!

There was an article in the New York Times, I’ve saved that causes me to smile and grimace simultaneously. I didn't really need to save it (though I did) because I agreed with the headline, had seen the nearly-legendary visual that went with the story, and lived through countless, some might suggest innumerable, close, personal encounters of the worst kind.

When I was in the Air Force the article would have been what we called a BGO, blinding glimpse of the obvious. And its premise was/is that PowerPoint has lots of the former and none of the latter. I've endured my share of meetings where multi-colored pie charts demonstrate conclusively (and irrefutably) "11" is larger than "5". I've always loved the animations some folks use to make these very points--though it's hard to not adore the old stand-by, stacks of various heights so even a cretin can grasp three dollars is much many more than two. There's nothing like the classics.

Not so amusing has been the amount of my life that's been invested in supporting this kind of puppet show mummery-but since misery loves company I must also point out that few, if any, of the folks who requisition my help are ever very happy that I show up with a shoe box full of hand puppets while wearing finger puppets (it's hard to get those suckers on, too, after you've got a couple on already on one hand; and I don't have a lot of friends to help). I get invited to less and fewer of these soirees as time passes. Hey, I'm a traditionalist; what can I say?

And it's not fair, in a way to blame the device when it's we who made it, used it and now over use it, just like everything else we put our hands to. We will have access to more information, vastly more than we can process or retain, by the end of today than has existed throughout all of civilization. Actually, that's crap-I suspect something like that statement is probably true, but like the talking heads on TV, I don't have the time to research or confirm it as a truth, so I'll just proclaim it my truth and because you have no way to compare, measure or analyze, you'll buy in on it.

Then tomorrow, we can make that into a bullet on a slide and then turn that into a bumper sticker. Soon, we'll have a movement, with a website, a ball cap and maybe some endorsement deals. Between you and me, considering how full of it as a species we already are, it's amazing we don't have non-stop movements, but that's a discussion for another time. 

Next slide please, "Confusion through Consensus" Yes, it's just a random collection of various parts of speech. What you read it to mean is what your reality decides it is and welcome to it. Subject to your briefing, that concludes my questions.
-bill kenny

Friday, April 29, 2016

Galloping or Banquo

I try to avoid attending churches of faiths other than my own. I never know the customs and courtesies and end up, in an attempt to be light-hearted, perceived instead as a flippant asshat (which is more often correct than I care to admit). 

Since I’ve been faithfully faithless for decades, I guess that means I could go to anyone’s church but as you’ve probably already guessed, I wasn’t speaking about a house of worship.

Yesterday according to news feeds, streaming and screaming headlines of various descriptions as well as all the sports talk radio was the NFL Draft Day. For a nation that abandoned military conscription in 1973, our strange fascination with a combination in restraint of trade that feeds and fuels our appetite for destruction masquerading as a desire for sport amazes me. 

You have, I imagine, already guessed how I feel about American professional football (and you are 100% on the money, pun intended). Professional football players go from hero to zero faster than the speed of thought and the best lesson of all on Draft Day 2016 might be how quickly we turn on our icons

Hui and Pfui aren’t  the nicknames of Uncle Ludwig’s two other duckling nephews. It’s how so many of us respond (and how quickly) to the next big thing. For the football fanatic, Draft Day was a chance to have your favorite team discover the next Red Grange, or forge an uneasy truce with Banquo. In either event, success has no more than a ghost of a chance
-bill kenny

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Past Perfect Is Not Perfect

I gave up a long time ago believing anything I could type here, on a daily or otherwise basis would or could make a difference like that of gale force winds created halfway round the globe by the beating of a butterfly's wings. Nope, not even close. 

I realized all by myself long before anyone pointed out to me, I was attempting to empty an ocean of lunacy and bad behavior with a teaspoon.  As it turns out, the spoon is one of those cheapo plastic ones that tend to melt into nothingness as you use it to stir your coffee. And you thought that bold new flavor was the result of those fresh-roasted, fair-trade purchased and rainforest-grown coffee beans? Um, no, not exactly though you are cuter than a bug’s ears even though I have NO idea what that expression is supposed to mean.

So afraid are we, I fear, of what the future may bring, we remain rooted in our own past-music, arts, politics (take a look at what November is shaping up to be and tell me how it's better, not different) and entertainment. Somewhere Marty McFly has the hood open on the DeLorean and is working to regap the spark plugs and adjust the timing chain. When that happens, all I can conclude is nothing is different but everything’s changed
-bill kenny   

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Some Thoughts About the Night Before on the Day After

Just me or are you, too, feeling a little lonely this morning and maybe just a tad depressed in a post-primary sort of way here in The Nutmeg State. We certainly had ourselves a time around here in the world of Big Time Politics for the last week or so, didn’t we? Ayup.

But let’s face it, it was getting crowded with all these out-of-towners pleading for and seeking our votes on both sides of the aisle. Whether you were keen to Feel the Bern, wanted to Make America Great Again or were supporting someone else for our nation’s highest office, we had a nearly historical opportunity to get up close and personal in Presidential primaries that actually mattered.   

Because of the campaign calendar, magic mathematical numbers and an unrelenting pursuit of needed delegates for both parties’ nominations, our voices were heard yesterday loud and clear. I have little doubt that the total number of those of us who voted, based on the weeks and months of buzz, was ‘unheard of’ even though we could have been a lot/little more inclusive in whom we allowed to cast a ballot. That vox populi stuff gets to be a little problematic when you try thinking outside of the vox but voter registration and affiliation rules for 2016 seem more rooted for a time before technology and connectivity.

With passions stoked and so much at stake, it’s to be expected in the harsh light of the morning after, some of us are more than a little disappointed with yesterday’s results. You may consider absenting yourself from voting in November. Pardon my bluntness; we should grow up and shut up. I refuse (and so should you) to NOT use a right I defended while in uniform because I'm less than happy with the outcomes.

Because the entrees on the menu aren't to my liking doesn't mean I'm going on a hunger strike anytime soon right here in the Democracy Diner. Far too often unqualified or less than competent office seekers are elected to positions of leadership because caring, concerned and engaged citizens get discouraged and don’t vote.

We’ve heard it our whole lives and that’s because it’s been true for that long (and longer), this election matters. Explore every position and challenge every assumption made by every candidate. Consider everyone and everything. Then make up your mind.

We need all the help we can get and give to one another, especially now. We have drifted off-course for a long time and if we're ever going to reach the beach we'll all have to grab an oar and row like our lives depend on it. Put your back into it.

Let’s be clear: this is going to get a lot harder before it gets easier if it ever gets easier at all but TOO many have sacrificed everything they had so that you and I could make a choice and have our voices heard. 
Don’t you dare remain sullen or silent. Not now, or November.
-bill kenny  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Like McCartney Needs the Royalties

I’m gonna hear it all day long today so I may as well mark this anniversary of my completed orbit around the sun with my second most favorite version. I get to do something I have never before done on my birthday which is to cast a ballot for someone I hope becomes our next President, in this case in the Democratic Party primary here in Connecticut for Senator Bernie Sanders

Thank you most especially to Mom and to Dad without whom…..well, this space might be better purposed but not nearly so whimsically. And to my siblings who to wildly varying degrees put up with a lot of crap that total strangers would and should have clubbed me to death about.  Glad we couldn’t afford a club membership.

To Sigrid who makes every day worth every effort and to our children Patrick and Michelle, thank you for letting me be your Dad. To Blue Cross/Blue Shield whose coverage makes my previous thank you possible if at times it seemed almost improbable.

To Doctors CC, DG, JM, ON, AN, and SV, your efforts very likely have resulted in my reaching this milestone, especially you, Adam, thank you most profusely.

Maybe next year, Evan
That’s it, there’s nothing else to see here and no cake, so move along.

-bill kenny  

Monday, April 25, 2016

Lead On and Bleed On Me

Do you have trouble getting started on Mondays? Yeah, me too. It's a bit embarrassing as I have close to no life and have been known to come into work every day of the week (in recent years I've cut down to only coming in on Sundays over the weekend, mainly because the love of my life has projects for us on Saturdays) and yet Monday is such a challenge.

When I got up this morning, I had a fragment of a dream, or a thought while I was asleep (not sure if they're one and the same thing) about Pericardium but I don't know why or what its meaning might be. Heck, I wasn't actually sure how to correctly spell it until I looked it up and now I'm still not sure. 

I don't think it was on my leftover 'to do' list from last week since getting into med school and deciding to be a surgeon wasn't on the 'to do' list either. Maybe it's akin to Monty Python's Eric the Half-Bee, semi-carnally and all of that, Cyril. Or not. The dictionary defines a mondegreen as 'a word of phrase resulting from a misinterpretation of a word or phrase that has been heard.' Which is how we have remarks like "I led the pigeons to the flag' from "I pledge allegiance to the flag" or (one of my favorites, from rock and roll) "Excuse me while I kiss this guy" from Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze. Actually, that one makes Pericardium practically benign in comparison, even if I don't know what it's about. 

But back here on Monday, and trying to return to the routine (meaning that if you have a life whose rhythm is other than Monday through Friday you still have a Monday, just in a different place of the week), it sometimes is like trying to tap-dance with diver's boots on. Don't know about you, but I have a small army of distractions building up in one of my frontal lobes, even as I type this, that's causing me to try to look over my own shoulder to hurry this along. You need to read faster so we stay in sync, or something. 

I've been doing this 'get up/get dressed/get to work/get home' drill for way too long. When I was a kid, I thought being a grown up would be a lot more fun than it's proving to be. Staying up as late as you want, having soda with dinner, driving a car; all of that sounded pretty cool to me (actually, it still does) but all the other rigmarole that you go through to be allowed the chance to do that stuff! I just had cold cereal for breakfast and again, there was no toy in the box. Why do we adults permit this? If anyone needs a prize in their cereal every morning, it's grown-ups. What a gyp. 

No wonder so much of our everyday lives is goobered up. We create laws and requirements when we're cranky and tired, or when it's Monday and we make each other live by those rules every day of the week. What if Pericardium was supposed to be an accordion and I was supposed to sign up for lessons today? Jeepers, Wally! Where is that Cat Detection van when we really need it?
-bill kenny