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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Remember what the Dormouse Said

The other day I stumbled across something and immediately shared it on Facebook that made me smile, and wince, in equal parts and simultaneously, “skinny jeans are easier to obtain than skinny genes.”

I long ago abandoned drainpipe trousers for relaxed fit jeans (so named because Big Butt didn’t test well with the marketing folks, I guess) and recognize that I’m right in the middle of the “surrender the things of youth” portion of the maturation process. I actually cheated to a certain extent, growing old without ever growing up.

Then I fell across this article buried in a Google news summary and am weighing whether or not to renew my gym membership. Kidding of course as this item, I’m surmising, may be quite a while yet in development before it’s generally available (by prescription I’m guessing), though none of that stopped any of the commentators who posted beneath the story from not only knowing everything but knowing everything better.

It was Evelyn Beatrice Hall, and not Voltaire, who offered “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Had she lived to see the trolls, worms and gnomes of the Internet she might have added, “but never mind.” 

I enjoy watching how one comment sets another different anonymous stranger off on a tangent until within five or six postings the comments and observations have NOTHING to do with the news item whose appearance originally precipitated the discussion and EVERYTHING to do with the intelligence (and lack thereof) of the previous poster.

Between knock-knock jokes and cat memes, we’re chewing up bandwidth like it’s going out of style and don’t seem to have managed to make anyone of us a whole lot smarter which, considering we have the keys to the universe in our hands, is more than a little embarrassing. 

But at the end of the day, we’ll still be much more successful at piling on the pounds than getting and keeping them off. We are, after all, only human.

-bill kenny    

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ruth Is Stranger than Richard

I think sometimes on weekends, we hang a  "gone fishin'" sign on the apartment door and check out mentally and emotionally which results in news stories that we are unable to explain.

My original theory on this one was The Onion had somehow infiltrated my news feed but it turns out it really is really and truly real and true.

I should acknowledge I very much enjoy The Onion and subscribe to it as a sort of mental palette cleanser when a dispatch from Murdoch's Morons (or do you prefer Ailes' A$$holes?) finds its way to my in-box.

In fairness and because I'm more than a little slow, I have to point out I spent months thinking the screed about the Benghazi Conspiracy was also The Onion's attempt at satire, though I don't know how they made a replica of Lindsay Graham.

I think the takeaway from the Logan Looner, especially this close to the busiest air travel day of the year is Don't. Not necessarily so much don't fly as don't go to the bathroom. Why do you think Mom asked before we got in the car?
-bill kenny

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Approach of Winter's Chill

This time of year, I'm grateful Norwich isn't Buffalo but also saddened it's not someplace in the Carolinas. Having only driven through them I have this idea that North and South Carolina are delightfully temperate-weather zones where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day.

We on the other hand, this time of year can see the Just Awful overheard in the winter grey skies days before it actually arrives. We had temperatures earlier in the week to start the day south of thirty and when I was out walking yesterday to my pharmacy, it was probably above freezing but my Galvanic Skin Response would have begged to differ.

The day was bright but the sky portends less cheerful days ahead. The sun's rays grow shorter even as the daylight minutes continue to shrink. Everyone's favorite coffee table book is the Farmer's Almanac, and the winter weather forecast.

I won't spoil your Sunday by telling you how it comes out, but I will give you a hint: don't worry about the paving job to a warm place; we're not headed there by any means.
-bill kenny

Saturday, November 22, 2014

What the Heart Remembers

I wrote this some years ago for an event that happened in another, more hopeful America that I think may have vanished forever on this day fifty-one years ago. That was the day John F. Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, Texas.

As I type that sentence I'm stunned to realize how much has passed since that day. For you, this is like reading about the first walk on the moon's surface or the Fall of Saigon. For me and my generation, this is a part of who we are because we remember all of these events, because and/or despite what followed them.

JFK wasn't a better person than those whom we have chosen since to occupy the White House nor was he worse-if events and circumstances make a person who will master them, then he was a man of a different time and all of us can't pretend to be able to compare and contrast then to now. We were and now we are. And those we lost along the way have only us to bear their witness. That some of then looks a lot like some of now is as much a function of perspective as it is of situations.

All my memories of the days of coverage in the aftermath of his assassination are black and white. They are not the misty water-colored memories, the song would have me believe, of the way we were but rather, grainy high contrast black and white moments stapled to special editions of newspapers and hurled at us by television stations engaged and engaging in their first national seance. 

We gathered in our living rooms or those without a TV stood on sidewalks in front of appliance stores to watch over and over again the film clips as the Secret Service agent clambered up the back of the moving limo, Jackie struggled to cradle the dying man's head, and Walter Cronkite removed his glasses and gathered himself before reading the teletype news telling us the youngest man ever elected President was now dead.

Video on demand? I guess. 
What we had was when Dad turned the set on, you heard the vacuum tubes humming and warming up. Slowly the picture grew larger and clearer. When it didn't, he would smack the set on the top or the side, one short, sharp blow-that was your on demand back in the day.A lot of people, perhaps one whole generation and portions of two others, did a decades worth of  growing up "in winter 1963 when it felt like the world would freeze."
-bill kenny

Friday, November 21, 2014

November Holidays

Me and mine are heading to our local library tomorrow morning for some holiday shopping and gift-giving ideas at a crafts fair they’ve sponsored for the last half decade (and more). I like the smaller, homier stuff as a warm-up for the approaching A-Shopalypse Now that will launch in less than a week’s time.

But before we get to that place where the mall and the sky collide, and we shall (trust me on that even though, for the record, no one ever wants to (actually no one wants to say they want to; sometimes we lie to ourselves by not telling the whole truth)), I wanted to yammer once more about the absence of coincidence that we observe Veterans Day and Thanksgiving in the same month.

You may not think the two are connected or that they have even less in common than they don’t. You would be wrong on both counts.

Next Thursday we’ll pause (hopefully) at least long enough to not only count our blessings but to be thankful for what we have and then, even before the plates are cleared from dining room tables, rush off to various commercial enterprises’ efforts to steal a march on Black Friday and gather up (even) more stuff we didn’t need two hours earlier to go with our cranberries and sweet potatoes.

Two things we can do. One is easy and it’s a Scout’s Honor thing. Spare a thought for the uniformed Salt of the Earth citizens whose service and sacrifice through the centuries make Thanksgiving, and every holiday (and every day that’s not a holiday, come to think of it) possible.

And find six minutes, I timed it (once with my lips moving and the other time not so much) to read LTG H. R. McMaster’s Veterans Day speech at Georgetown University. See if you don’t agree with him as originally proposed by Aristotle that it is only worth discussing that which is in our power. (Otherwise we're just running our mouths.)

Then resolve to add your power of belief, of persuasion, of whatever you feel your power to be, to that of others like and unlike you to not only make a difference but to be the difference.

-bill kenny

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Having No Shoes Is Still Better

When I got up yesterday morning it was 22 degrees Fahrenheit and pitch black (okay, it was 2:30 in the morning and it had better be dark). Before I even went outside, I was unhappy about the cold and dark day surrounding me. I guess until I clean my glasses, I’m not able to see that in my neighborhood we have pine trees not palm trees.

I had a sad heart and a red behind from feeling sorry for myself for having to slog through the cold and the dark all the way over to the Planet Fitness gym (James? We hardly know each other) where I got to see the news footage of the Lake Effect snow pummeling Buffalo and the area. I thought I was watching The Jack London Story, told in real-time.

My family and I had been in upstate New York, Niagara Falls (go ahead and click it, I’ll wait), near the end of September. The highways we had sped north on just seven weeks ago are impossibly impassable, even if you have a dog sled (tucked in the back of your all-wheel drive vehicle). 

By the time I had done my hour on the treadmill (some days offering diction lessons for Tourette’s patients is preferable) I had an old Johnny Horton song stuck in my head, and my whiny mealy-mouthed complaints about our weather stuck in my throat. It seemed to taste a lot like crow.

-bill kenny

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

O Tis a Far, Far Better Thing

As you’ve been watching TV and reading newspapers, it can’t have escaped your notice based on the volume of advertising, that we’ve already entered the city limits of The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Please Observe Local Speed Limits).

I’ll admit I wasn’t feeling the Spirit of the Season when the marketing barrage got started in the run-up to Halloween but maybe that almost-snow last week, coupled with a sprinkling of holiday lights cheerily blinking in the dark as I head to work have helped me feel more festive.

For those who currently live or who have lived in my house, this is a BGO, blinding glimpse of the obvious: I am not a fan of shopping at any time of the year but especially now. If speed gift-buying is ever made an Olympic event, you will find me on the medals platform. Meanwhile those to whom I give presents will be opening horribly wrapped gift boxes with equal measures of fear and trepidation.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the holiday season but, possibly like you, I’m overwhelmed by the whole Schlep to the Mall and the hunting and gathering of presents that finds me instead of hoping for peace on earth and goodwill for all, wishing every person between me and the cashier would end up in a place so warm there’s no need for scarves or sweaters (especially that one).

I’m a shopper in need of the gift of patience and since I’ve yet to see it on the shelves or at Amazon, I’ve adopted a coping strategy that I hope you’ll consider my gift to you and a boon to downtown Norwich.

This Saturday from ten to three, it’s the sixth annual “O’tis A Festival At Otis Library.” If you haven’t been in the library since the renovations were completed earlier in the fall, you now have the perfect reason to go check them out.

And if you’re a competitive shopper who relishes the hunt for the just-right something for a Someone Special, Otis will be packed to the rafters with crafters offering a variety of handmade items, including jewelry, woodworking, and pottery along with events for children and those who are young at heart.

Downtown Norwich looks to Otis Library the way the fingers of the hand look to the thumb. Located practically in the geographic center, Otis is the heart of Down City and events like Saturday’s are an important part of its lifeblood.

Downtown Norwich is very compact with many of the shops, restaurants and scenic harbor locales all within easy walking distance of one other as well as to the free municipal parking that gets you step-for-step closer to it all than if you opted for The Mall. I’d recommend inviting someone who believes there’s nothing going on in Norwich and smile as they learn otherwise.

The O’tis Festival is a gift to ourselves. We talk about ‘shopping local.’
Here’s our chance to not only talk the talk but walk it. 
- bill kenny