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Friday, February 27, 2015

Some Day We'll Have to Explain This As Well

One billion. That’s a nice, round number, innit? Has a one at the front and a bunch of zeroes. Looks quite nice actually as numbers go though in this case, it most certainly isn’t as that’s a really rough estimate of how many people around the globe go hungry every day. I made as  a good a guess as I can, not using the Fox News logic behind mocking global warming (as attractive as that technique is).

I lied, of course, in the above paragraph-this is an actual number from 2013 that’s about as accurate as anything anyone anywhere can or will ever find in terms of an educated guess on world hunger. There will come a day when we will need to google (or whatever the next google is called) to find out what “world hunger” even means, or was it eve real or just an urban myth like trickle-down economics and Citizen United.

But it won’t be today. And it’s not looking good for tomorrow either. When you think of how much food the world’s farmers produce (and how much food we in the first world waste and/or throw away) it’s pretty obvious hunger is not the problem, distribution is.

And unless and until enough of us want to make sure no one goes to bed hungry, people will always go to bed hungry, get up hungry and eventually die (of hunger). Their passing will not make the crawl on bottom of the screen of the Keeping Up with the Kardashians TV Show on “E.”

I got to thinking about all of this when I came across this news nugget on line (that ten free hours of AOL has already paid for itself!). When rates of obesity in this country are exceeded only by the sales of stretch yoga pants and feed bag rentals for those all you can eat buffets, that there’s something like Major League Eating, for competitive eaters mind you, is high up on the list of half-shoulder shrug explanations we offer the first interstellar travelers who touch down here on The Big Blue Marble.

After we invite them to lunch, of course.

-bill kenny

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Last Call at the Last Refuge

As a callow youth, imbibing clean-shaven and under-aged undergraduate at Rutgers on a stool in Mosco’s Bar in New Brunswick near the Douglass College (for Women) campus, I grew used to the bartenders’ last call. It was always the same, “you don’t have to go home, but you do have to go.”

I just googled Mosco’s and came up dry-as opposed to seeking out (and finding) cross-town favorite and bookend bar, Olde Queens Tavern. I guess you can go home again but your folks rented out the room.

Samuel Johnson once offered “Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels” and in light of the number of times we’ve watched politicians wrap themselves in the flag when caught or cornered on some ethical or behavioral matter that seems about right. 

The former mayor of New York, Rudolph Guiliani invoked echoes of the “P”  word earlier in the week, say news reports, when he suggested the President of the United States (a position Rudy himself once coveted (though I suspect he wouldn’t have liked the pay cut) didn’t “love America.”

I already didn’t understand what that meant when he offered an explanation on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal whose allegiance to money is unquestioned and where patriotism is notional and never national.  All that “think piece” did, I submit, was allow the double-decker bus that has been called into commission as the 2016 Presidential Klown Kar of Kandidates and Analysts to slow down and let a few more wild-haired weirdos get on.

I very much enjoyed the pop-up window back there that solicited a donation for some cause or other by telling me ‘defunding amnesty is defending America.’ Maybe we can go ahead and raffle off that Statue in New York Harbor and give ‘em the money from the sale since we don’t seem to have any further use for the huddled masses on the dirty boulevard.

I have to admit in recent years American politics has more closely resembled underwater kabuki theater than anything else I can think of. Words take on meanings that I can only guess. Perusing a leading light’s prepared remarks (and party affiliation makes no difference) is like being in a library with books in a language you don’t read.

I’m told actions speak louder than words, but we have too many people who’d rather crank up the volume rather than improve their original argument. Tina Turner once asked ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?” and that may be the last intelligent thing I remember anyone saying, and she wasn’t even speaking about politics

As a kid when we had ‘cut battles’ (mocking one another) we had a rule: no mothers. You could make fun of anything and everything else, but not Mom. It was a good rule, and I think with some adaptation we can make it work at the national level in pursuit of a more civil dialogue among and between us.

George Bernard Shaw whose works have always led me to believe he could’ve sat on my front stoop on Bloomfield Avenue offered this thought on loyalty based on the accident of where you were born,  “Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it....”

I have always preferred the thoughts of Carl Schurz but I’m told oldest children spend a lot time getting and setting things in order. It’s what we do. Sometimes living like that means I’m not allowed to eat at the cool kids’ table for lunch in high school, but that’s alright; I needed to lose a few pounds anyway.

-bill kenny

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Channeling Howard Beale

This will not surprise you, though your lack of surprise should sadden me: I have never allowed my lack of knowledge or information to keep from having an opinion. Consider that a disclaimer of sorts for what follows, because while I should be sorry what I’m about to offer, instead I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to finally express it. 

The Norwich Arts Events Committee sponsored a “brown bag summit” open to the public a fortnight ago that attracted some forty people from across the City. While I regretted not being able to attend, I felt the newspaper account of the meeting had a terrific “you are there” presence I deeply appreciated.   

Maybe it’s the unrelenting winter we’ve had so far, or maybe it’s a concern I have had that too often we confuse talking about solving problems with actually solving them.

If I may in one sentence attempt to describe our biggest challenge it is this: Norwich needs to become a place where people want to come home to.

Feel free to add any and all demographic adjectives and modifiers that you’d like to that sentence. But in terms of the demographics in our census data since 1990, understand we are becoming home to the very old and the very poor. And just about no one else.

I know. What does any of that have to with “the arts?”

You mean aside from putting quotations around the words except, of course, when we talk about the arts and music programs in our public schools, because we don’t have to because those have become a luxury we can no longer afford in our classrooms.

Live larger, think bigger.

When we hope to make “the arts” an engine of development in Norwich, who do we think those artists will be, where they will come from and how will they grow into the creative forces others from beyond our borders will support if/when we don’t invest in programs that broaden our children’s horizons while enriching our city.

And, quick note to a Board of Education that annually wrings its hands about how a “very tight” budget leaves no room for arts, music and language programs that neighboring districts offer as a matter of course, and then sits back as if that pronouncement helps anyone or anything at all.

Why not search out the attendees from the summit and insist on being part of larger conversations and collaborations that return “the arts” to our classrooms and which allow the many talented community hobbyists who play music for the love of it to share that enthusiasm with a whole new audience of school children. Don’t tell me we can’t do this when what you mean is we won’t.  

We can all only benefit, from the youngest to the oldest in our community, when we work as one beyond the confines of organizations and bureaucracies. The bad news is there’s no part of Norwich that’s not broken-but the good news is there’s no part we cannot fix.
-bill kenny  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Way the Camera Follows Us in Slo-Mo

Considering the relationship I have, or better phrased, do NOT have with God/The Deity/the Universal Consciousness (whatever you choose to call Her/Him), I can understand why we claim to be made in Her/His image and likeness, so often believe we have supplanted Her/Him.

A news story like this one, which could not seriously hope to complete with the likes of who won an Oscar and who got snubbed (since neither of us even got nominated I think we’re included in the latter) or how Kris Jenner is being blackmailed for a nude video of herself by persons unknown (I see a movie, “Fifty Shades of Ewww!”) almost was lost this weekend which is a shame because it’s an amazing and uplifting story.

I say that not just I stumbled over it on-line after an exchange of notes with a family member on matters of the health of their significant other with news that made me sad since I can neither help nor pray for others to help, but more (I think) because it’s a major miracle rendered mundane (seemingly) because of the effortlessness with which very brilliant and talented people, backed by teams with training and technology, make all of this seem routine though none of it is truly “as is seems.”

I sometimes think of Ozymandias when these stories surface except it’s never those accomplishing the miraculous that confuse their humanity for divinity or misplace their sense of humility but the rest of us here on the ant farm with beepers heedlessly hustling and hurtling towards an uncertain future with outcomes we can neither conceive of nor control.  We lose sight of how our lives are nothing more than a dry wind sweeping across the desert, curling into a circle of birth.    

-bill kenny

Monday, February 23, 2015

Time to Thin Out the Herd

I've been battling a cold for the better part of a month that I learned on Friday evening may not be as simple as a cold that doesn't quit. Two things usually happen when I get news like this: one is that I sulk and the other is that I just power through as if the physician were talking to someone else (a habit I've realized with a shock I inherited from my deceased father with whom I insist I have almost nothing in common until I look at behaviors and in the mirror and then have to swallow very hard).

Anyway, we had snow and sleet and ice and rain and more snow over the weekend because this is New England and that's what happens around here. We did get above freezing yesterday which I think is the first time in something like eleven years or so it seemed.

Of course it didn't get warm enough to remove the white out from our first draft of streets and sidewalks and according to the doctor I'm not allowed to do that anymore so I was saddled with the 'you can go to the store and get the fixings for the Mexican food we'll have for Sunday dinner' job.

I grabbed a shopping cart because I am much more a hunter-gatherer than a thrifty shopper. I cruise the aisles after getting whatever is on the list and hope neat stuff decides to hope into the cart. Our children are grown-I mention that so you can get a sense of how bewildered I was in reading this message on the plastic flap on the cart seat.

Seriously? Have we raised a generation of imbeciles who require these reminders in order to better parent. Or is this another manifestation of the litigious society in which we live that insists fast food joints tell me their coffee is hot because otherwise should I spill it I might play the victim card?

If you don't know your child should never be left unattended or "may fall out" of the cart, on behalf of future generations, swing by the condom display and arm yourself or your lover so someday these warnings are part of a bygone era.

And heed the words of Petula Clark, a champion of the obvious way back when we thought it was romantic and not a warning label.
-bill kenny

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Not Really an Accurate Description

I've read with bewilderment, anger and astonishment of the success of the criminal crazies who are the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) -also called by a large number of other names, many of which make my mom feel very sad- and I confess to being so white bread, so Christianized (which is like pasteurized except I'm going to heaven or Carolina (in my mind)) and so Westernized that the appeal of these murderous maniacs eludes me entirely.

Came across this the other day which, I'll tell you this in advance, has working against it, its length (over five and half minutes) and I say "working against it" because while many of us will watch puppies skateboard, raccoons hula hoop or kittens leap up and open doors for an hour or more, without surcease, we're not big on actual learning of stuff by sitting and watching it on the Interweb.

I don't know why watching extended pieces on-line is so hard to do-I'm nearly sixty-three years old so maybe my attention span was already formed by three hour advanced placement tests (are you listening Oklahoma?) before any more damage could be done.

In any event, you owe it to yourself and anyone you care about to check this report out and remember Churchill's observation: "a fanatic is someone who cannot change his mind and will not change the subject." Perhaps after watching you'll agree with me that an antiseptic nuclear cleansing is our first and best solution.
-bill kenny

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Fifty Shades of Sasha

It could be worse, I suppose. Brian Williams could be piloting a Hind helicopter which would make reporting on his role in the hostilities in the Ukraine even more awkward, but this news item, involving Sasha Grey (I’ll pause while all us guys can pretend to not know who she is) will do for now. 

We’ve all read stories about family pets getting credit cards in the mail and this is sort of along those lines and also the whole “on the internet anyone can be anyone else” (though usually it’s an FBI agent pretending to be a fifteen year old girl) paradigm.

My favorite part in explaining and examining the disinformation campaign is the mention of Josef Mengele and how not even that could deter folks from swallowing (was that an oblique reference to Sasha’s skillset? I’ll never tell) the disinformation  hook, line, and sinker only to end up flopping on the dock.

A lie, said Mark Twain in the pre-Internet era where no one ever imagined a thing such as social media, can travel halfway around the world before the truth puts on its shoes. These days our self-generated social media news feeds with topics and genres we select have rows and columns of sport shoe ads helping mock and make the point even more.

As if the slaughter in this corner of the world, largely ignored by our mass communications practitioners, isn’t obscene enough, let’s manipulate diminished attention spans to create and enlarge fake outrage based on manufactured  mendacious memories of incidents that never happened in a conflict most of us can’t even imagine.

-bill kenny