Monday, April 30, 2012

Child Is Father to the Man

I always tell people I learned patience from our two children. Before Patrick and Michelle were born I was the most impatient person to have ever lived. I have no idea how my wife could stand to be with me, that's how bad I was (actually she paid very little attention to me and encouraged others to do likewise-as a coping strategy. It worked for the most part).

As our children grew up, I learned the joys of explaining how to tie your shoes (I hate that whole 'the bunny goes' crap but I used it to make a point at a 'teachable moment' a term I didn't understand then and I don't get now at all), and mastering the art of buttoning your shirt (that one is still hard for me) and, of course, riding a bicycle.

Michelle was EXCELLENT at learning to ride a bike-she had marvelous coordination and had watched her mother, father and older brother ride for years before she got on the 'no training wheels' model and tore off down the street. Patrick was much too much like his dad in terms of patience and attention so the no training wheels phase of the program took a while because once he got going, he'd enjoy the sensation so much he'd forget to pedal or he'd get going so fast and realize I was struggling to keep up that he'd stop.

Our children survived my attempts at teaching, even when it came to automobiles. In both their cases, I had rehearsed my 'no one succeeds at everything the first time' speech and twice never needed it as they both passed on the first attempt. So, if you need a 'but you tried so hard' win one for the Gipper (next time) speech drop me a line and you can have one that was never used.

I mention all of this because when you're an adult and your children are small, you're the Master of the Universe. There's nothing you cannot do, from reaching things all the way on the top shelf, to carrying the really big box upstairs out of the basement to walking out in the street  without mom yelling at you. You know everything and can do anything. You both get older-- the difference is you age and they grow up. You're not so smart anymore as they catch up and, in my case by fourth grade, pass and surpass you.

Patrick was over to visit yesterday and, as is the case every time he comes over, I had a list of things on the computer and on the smart phone, I needed him to show me how to do, or fix or unkluge from where I had already fixed them. He teaches very well, smiles a lot, explains things over and over again and has plenty of patience. All of that is obviously from his mother. I serve as a good example of a bad example and they are both welcome.

Speaking of thank you. I am putting this clip, here, because a line from it rattled around in my head all weekend, "you're hotter than the hinges on the gates of Hell" and now it's your turn. Enjoy. I know I did.
-bill kenny

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Moonwalk not likely

I fractured my right ankle last Tuesday night. I went out for a walk around the block after dinner, before it got dark and stepped sideways on some pebbles on a conceptual sidewalk (an inside $18 million dollar joke) and when I did heard/felt it give way, I knew I was screwed. I hobbled home after scaring my wife by calling her on my cellphone and not being able to hear her, while she could hear me. She had no idea where I was but knew I was in trouble. and when I finally did get home, I was in more.

I couldn't get to my orthopedic practice that next day (yes, I've had enough work done I qualify for my own practice; heck with pony rides, woot!) but they squeezed me in. I hadn't brushed up on my French and I feared my doctor might check me into the boards, but she is very kind. She made no mention of two years ago when I broke the same foot about how I stood her up for the last examination and simply went back to to my life once the initial diagnosis was made (and I had the clunkiest boot in Creation to wear for months that I really didn't).

In less than an hour, from the time I had signed in (I was my doctor's last patient-technically, the patient after her last one) I was getting fitted with a Curt Shilling sleeve, as I call it, and resisting the temptation to offer to drive Bobby Valentine to Logan and feed him to a US Air 767 intake. What I did do, instead, was the fault of the Imp of the Perverse.

The doctor had advised me that a fracture can be painful while healing and offered to write a prescription for a pain killer-I have a well-known reputation as having a high threshold of pain, of other people's pain (mine, not so much). I'm also weak-willed and the road to perdition in my case is an interstate so I heard myself assure her I would be fine. I knew as I said the words that it was a lie. I know me too well.

I started popping Ibuprofen and acetaminophen within an hour of coming home like they were Tic Tacs because the doctor was right, it did hurt. When the nurse assigned by my insurance company gave me a HUGE lecture Wednesday afternoon on the phone about telling my doctors about the pain, I decided to come clean with my primary care physician whom I was seeing on my birthday, Thursday, and ask for help in the pain management department.

He knew it was my birthday and he's a normally a pretty good guy, but Thursday there were no big shoes, no squirting flower or red nose.I never saw a bucket full of confetti as requested and as for tooling around the parking lot in a clown car,  not a chance. It may have had something to do with the wicked cold he was nursing (makes sense-you don't see two dozen or more sick (one form of another) people every day and not catch something) or the fact that he has a whackadoodle for a patient.

He wrote me a prescription for a light pain reliever (I've never understood that-why not go MAX VOL and be done with it; instead, 'no thanks, just a little something to take the edge off, but leave the deep seated pain, thanks') and I called my orthopedist and left a message confessing I was the wimp we both know I am. I figure she's already counting down the days to July when I don't come back in for the follow-up. I am, if nothing else, consistent et incroyablement têtu et stupide.
-bill kenny        

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The King Is Dead

Maybe just me or do the new Burger King TV spots weird you out, too? I mean seriously. I watched one last night with Steven Tyler (whom I don't watch on American Idol). Steven looks like he fell out of the ugly tree and hit every single branch on the way down.

Thirty five years ago, it wasn't that big a deal.  Aerosmith was Boston's answer to a question never asked. Tyler was Jagger to Joe Perry's Keef Richards. Then they all got old. Now, I have no idea what Aerosmith, Inc, does but I'll bet they have a private jet and an army of accountants to help them do it. And now Steven does Burger King commercials and has a face that looks like a baseball glove.

The BK spot for something with chicken Mary J Blige did angered more people than putting a hoodie on Abraham Lincoln ever could have and the one with David Beckham and a strawberry banana smoothie was mawkishly amateur.

I thought the King character from their previous advertising campaign came to someone in a Quaalude lull and he always freaked me out and not because anything connected with him was original. This new effort to try to get BK back within sight of the #2 spot in slinging sliders, Wendy's is the new #2 behind Mickey D's (I'm guessing because they concentrated on food and not TV commercials), isn't motivating me to do anything other than speed past their joints on the highway. Sort of like Jay Leno, only faster, and a whole lot funnier.
-bill kenny

Friday, April 27, 2012

Smells like Team Spirit

By many financial accounts the largest grossing (not necessarily profit making but money-generating) sports franchises in the world include Manchester United, FC Barcelona, Inter Mailand and the New York Yankees. I mention this last one not merely to annoy the Boston Red Sox faithful among us but to remind all of my fellow OFC Kickers anhanger wir sind seemlich weit von zeil. Ich fühle mich so allein.

Actually, my point is (and when I comb my hair this way it is much harder to see) the head often remembers when the belly was empty. Official merchandise is so ubiquitous we almost no longer see it. You can be garbed from head to toe in your favorite team if you have the scratch to afford the "official jockstrap of the (insert your team here)" Men mock women for their devotion to Oprah and Ellen but, with apologies to Brooke Shields, nothing gets between me and my genuine NY Yankee pajamas (with the feet). 

Except maybe the cost of all this officialosity. Them logos ain't cheap my brothers and don't we know it. But what do we the grateful fans get for our devotion? The right to buy seat licenses in stadia built with our tax dollars in the first place. Tom Sawyer would drop his brushes over the chutzpah this takes, but we're just warming up.

Not too many years ago there was a movement afoot at ownership levels of Major League Baseball to work out a license fee structure for using team names, colors and registered trademarks by Little League teams. The Little League whose World Series (btw, Lords of Baseball it really is a WORLD series) in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, is a sell-out for every game, every year (and they give away the tickets for free); yeah, that Little League.

Money can't buy you love sang John, Paul, George and Ringo but Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith maintain a catalog of all the things it does buy and it's an awfully thick tome. Step right up and try the fragrance of 27 World Series Championships--New York Yankees Eau de Toilette and For Her Eau de Parfum. Did you think I was joshing (or does Beckett's agent have an option on that gerund?)-not at 62 bucks a bottle I'm not, bubbah.

If you thought we were talking about the aroma of neet's foot oil soaking into a glove with a baseball in the pocket and two sets of thick rubber bands wrapped around it and then jammed under the back mousetrap of a bike in the garage, au contraire mon ami. Who could afford that?

I adore the fragrances' descriptions because I'm addicted to words and may actually put some of the ones from Times' article in my resume. Who wouldn't want to be known as 'a sparkling gourmand with floral notes and flavorful muskiness.' Seriously. I left my decoder ring at home so I have NO idea what any of that means, except that I believe I just heard the approaching Horsemen, but it's a comfort to know there's also a body wash and a lotion. Oh well, whatever, nevermind.
-bill kenny

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Six Oh.

I haven't gotten it yet-expenses like rent and utilities payments have priorities but before too long I'm gonna have me a copy of Loudon Wainwright's new release, Older than My Old Man Now. I was this time last year, as well, but now I'm at a round number that feels very much like a wall but I tell myself it's a platform from which I can better see ahead and look back, all at the same time. I am a terrible liar.

6-0. In some states you can still drive that speed and maybe even faster but not in the state I'm in. I'm from the Land of Steady Habits by way of Land Hesse and the swamps of Jersey. I don't feel 60 but, I have no idea what it's supposed to feel like. I was talking to a young person hobbling on crutches because of a right knee injury and he told me the doctors are watching it carefully since "it's the same one I hurt back in 'o8 when I was in seventh grade." Please.

The tragedy of  youth is that it's wasted on the young. When I was his age then, I didn't know anyone my age now. I don't think I even realized people could get this old and now that I have I don't see myself as old. Worn, yes. Beaten and broken, yeah. Old? Dunno.

Maybe you're the same? That guy I see in the mirror every morning must look different to me than to most other people I encounter the rest of the day. People who see that guy hold doors for him and they say 'sir' to him and they offer to help him carry things upstairs or out to the car. Okay, I have a shotgun, but I think there's more than just Al Capone's rule at work here. And no, I don't really.

I should feel something today, right? Except with 7 plus billion of us here on the ant farm I have no idea how many of us are celebrating the same Natal Anniversary. Yankee Stadium? The Super Dome? A small state of our own. I have no clue. Special is a tall order; I'll stick to being different.

Does this happen to you too? People congratulate me on my birthday like it was my idea. Sorry, no. I was oblivious to you (just like now) and to me, if that helps. Was everyone in the delivery room waiting for me to finish putting on my gloves and shirt? 'Will I need my sled?' I shouted before the delivery began. I think not. We all came into this world the way we're all going out. And all those years of possession by our possessions will be mist in a minute and then dust forever. Oh.

Memory must be the first thing to go because it was earlier this week, I swear, when I asked this incredibly beautiful girl to marry me (which she did; I probably should ask for a pony ride, considering my luck). And we have two kids, okay, they are grown-ups now with their own lives and I keep hearing Lennon's wry observation about life and realize the tighter I hold on the faster it slips away.

Through the love and sometimes other descriptives of my family to the kindnesses of randy and random strangers streaming through my life, from Elechester and Dinah Shore on TV to Belford, down the street from Aunt Anne and  Uncle Chief, to Wannamassa, Franklin Township, to Somerset and up to Rhinebeck and Canal Road,  a year on ice in Greenland and then vorwarts to Germany and now the Nutmeg State, it's been quite a ride.

I've had a window seat for it, to include the stuff I wish I hadn't, and I'm glad I remembered to wear trousers with pockets so I had some place to put all the memories and the fun. Thank you Mom and Dad, without whom none of this would be possible (or otherwise) and to Evan, Kelly, Kara, Jill, and Adam who've helped make it memorable (at least to me).

As for you, thanks for being here and sometimes being back there as well. Yeah, the first sixty went pretty fast and I'm sorry for being a poor companion. I will strive to improve and have every intention of doing some of this again tomorrow so if you're not doing anything you could come along and we could do it together. It's never too late to have a happy childhood, but it is later than you think. Trust me on that one.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Past Is Gone

We can be a tough crowd around here. We are very often and very much the 'flinty New Englanders' from whom Nathaniel Hawthorne's Hester Prynne received a varsity letter of sorts. And sometimes, as popular as this is likely to not make me, we're still handing them out. We neither forgive nor forget so, instead of learning from our past experiences, we launch full-court presses to find the guilty and mete out punishment. And we have convenient memory as well as forgiveness issues.

It was less than six months ago, in late October, we filled City Council chambers and watched along at home as Winstanley Enterprises and their leasing partners, Silvera Asset Group, the new owners of what was re-christened the Norwichtown Commons, outlined the direction and speed they hoped to establish in breathing new life into what had been a moribund property. There were murmurings of approval and the following day the commentators and trolls for both local newspapers' on-line accounts seemed to be somewhat hopeful that, this time, "something good might happen." How soon we, and they, forget I guess.

Saturday morning when Sarah Clark and her staff joined with all the members of the current City Council to cut a pink ribbon marking the reopening of the new Dress Barn, there were eager customers galore but none of the voices so often heard and faces seen at City Council meetings who demand 'something be done' to stem the rising tide of higher property tax rates.

Maybe it was the first weekend of fishing season-perhaps that where everyone was, along the riverbanks in stylish waders with fishing tackle and ten pound line. Or not. I'm more than willing to bet the latter. A topic like 'economic development' is something we discuss at barbecues and at our kids' sporting events. It's better than talking about the weather because we can all be experts and have no expertise of any kind (and none of us will ever know).

Actually, it's even better because we've convinced ourselves we can't do anything about economic development and feel ourselves the victim of cruel and uncaring fate. We're also good at self-pity, if I hadn't mentioned that. You see, as unhappy as we are that 'no one ever does anything' we get even crankier when someone does. We would complain if hanged with a new rope (and yes, I thought about a different word instead of complained but then readers of this on the Bulletin's newspaper website would use that word to complain about my vocabulary choices).

The Dress Barn, one of only three in the state to boost the 'new look,' is a marvel-take my word for it. You see, I was in the Council chambers last fall and I was there at the Commons Saturday morning because I like a one-to-one correlation between beginnings and endings.

Despite what you may have heard about about a search for a black cocktail dress to complement fire engine red slingbacks, I was there to see what a good idea well-executed looks like up-close. Lord knows we haven't had all that many here in Norwich and somehow I knew I wouldn't have to worry about the size of the crowd or not getting a good view. That's the problem with  being a pessimist; I can only be surprised- I can never be disappointed.

I see the Dress Barn as a demonstration of what the Commons' owners envision the process of reinvention to be. There were some cosmetic changes in recent months to include the removal of a lot of the dead brush around the perimeter of the property and new signage at the entrances. But now we are where the road and the sky collide, the actual creation of retail space for all of those who believe our best days are ahead of us. We're not always good at recognizing better things without a sign. I just hope we know how to read one.
-bill kenny      

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Slightly Bigger than the Amboy Dukes

Imagine my surprise at Ted Nugent's return to the public spotlight. Go ahead, I'll wait. I was taken aback by the reference in this story to him as a 'shock rocker' since I'm not sure I know what those are (anymore) but am pretty sure The Tedster doesn't quite fit the position description. As old as dirt I am, Ted's older. We go back a far piece as they say in many of the places he bowhunts. Long ago, in an arena faraway in  Ludwigshafen, I went for an afternoon interview and stayed for a shock treatment with Mother's Finest as his opening act followed by some of the tallest and largest ampliers I'd ever seen in my rock and roll life as he took the stage.

The same guy who had, on a previous tour, handed out buttons that read 'If it's too loud, you're too old' was even louder, and older, on this particular tour, not that I chose to raise that topic after sitting through an afternoon sound check by both him and his opening act AND their full set AND his full set AND two encores. I had already figured out his collected works would probably never make it to the MOMA-he had long since done all of that math himself. It's not what he came for.

Yeah, he's gonzo and the Motor City Madman but the guy can play and he lives his life the way many of the rest of us can only dream of so doing (as long as none of us are Leonard Cohen). And now he's in trouble-who'd have thunk it. Most of Ted (93+ %, I'd wager) is entertainment, mostly his own. Long before he had a radio gig he was broadcasting to amuse himself about himself. And I can't help but think at some level he's enjoying that he may have become the equivalent of the Dixie Chicks for the current occupants of the White House. I cringe to even think about what he might be imagining he could do with the Dixie Chicks but I wouldn't be surprised he'd tell you-and it wouldn't be what you had first thought.

You had to know the day would come when he'd be forced to stop and smell the bovine excrement he's been recycling all these years because he knew it (long before the rest of us). He doesn't take any of this personally and would be crestfallen to learn someone else did. He runs with scissors. It's what he does. If we're smart, we'll run behind him otherwise he'll run us over. And don't let him near the paste!

The Nuge is all about fun and being loud and driving fast and shouting down people, preferably doing ALL of that while chowing down on a live animal. He never hunts for sport, claiming he dresses his own harvested game, starting with the socks, I'm sure. He's used to the sound of one hand clapping, mainly because he has another use for a digit on the other hand. I do know when you sup with Ted, you need a long spoon and a car that gets great gas mileage when it's on a Journey to the Center of the Mind. Right up front, stage right.
-bill kenny      

Monday, April 23, 2012

More Second Guessing than Second Acts

The big news item over the weekend was the less than successful Fenway Park Centennial in Boston. Just kidding. That was a disaster but only for a small number of folks who are genetically programmed to expect terrible things to happen to their baseball team (whom they love despite whatever happens) mainly because they often do. To help keep everything in perspective remember you can be a success with a .300 batting average which actually means you fail seven of ten times to get on base.

But I'm not talking about Bobby Valentine-I'm referencing the passing of Charles ("Chuck") Colson, a former Richard Nixon loyalist who purportedly boasted he'd run over his own mother to get RMN re-elected. From the many accounts of his personal life and Presidential years I've read, Richard Nixon was not the happiest man on earth and it's been my experience unhappy people tend to attract like-minded ones. Look at my circle of friends. Okay bad example; I don't have any. Though I guess that does prove the point, eh? Stupid logic.

Unless you were already an adult when Chuck Colson and the crew (H. R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, John Dean, Don Segretti, G. Gordon Liddy, E. Howard Hunt) were all associated with the Committee for the Re-election of the President (CREEP) during the thunder and lightning phase of the Vietnam War, words cannot ever convey or capture how close this country was to Civil War.

That tendency we have now to call those right of center 'crypto-fascists' and those left of center 'communists' had its beginnings back in those days when everyone who fought in the jungles of 'Nam were 'baby-killers' and my unshaven and unwashed side tended to chant 'Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh! The NLF are Gonna Win!' Maybe that's where the Secret Service first had the idea about that staff assistance visit to Colombia (turns out Visa isn't everywhere you want to be). The power of suggestion.   

The end of the world, or of our democracy, was happening 'round the next street corner and on a daily and recurring basis and forty years after The Plumbers and the attempts to humiliate and intimidate Daniel Ellsberg and hundreds of other little crimes against the Constitution and one another (yeah, the SDS didn't stand for Super Duper Students, so sue me), we have the dying out of a generation of wolves and the thinning out of the herd of sheep who made the wolves possible brings us back to where we started.

Shakespeare's Anthony in Julius Caeser offered "(T)he evil men do lives after them, the good oft is interred with their bones." I can't sit in judgement on the sum of the life of Chuck Colson and if you know someone who says s/he can, congratulations, you know a self-righteous moron (other than me). I pledged to be one of those who 'don't buy books from crooks' and I've failed at many things, but not that.

I come to bury Colson, not praise him and in so doing mark the passage of years without acknowledging the accretion of knowledge; humbled to realize that not learning to forgive my own past means failing to learn and then live from its lessons.
-bill kenny    

Sunday, April 22, 2012

WPP Fandango

It's possible the lousy weather we have been threatened with for the last couple of days will arrive today and actually be here when I get up (I'm not up now; I was but now I'm not. It's a computer thing and no one understands). Most Saturdays I get to sleep in until 0630 or so unless I'm in the blood tests cycle which I am as of this week. I did two sets last week, one for a doctor I'd seen the week before and the other for someone I started out seeing on Wednesday and actually saw Friday afternoon (talk about a commute!).

I had blood drawn yesterday and will have some more drawn next weekend as well (I do Saturdays because they are all 'fasting' tests-what ever became of slowing tests?) and it's too hard to make happen during the work week. Anyway, the blood tests yesterday morning meant I blew off a hearing on most of the public safety portions of the municipal budget whose hearing was oh bright early yesterday. Trying to combine my 'get 10,000 steps in' regimen AND the tests AND the budget hearings didn't work.

I caught up with a sporadic contemporary at an event at mid-morning, the grand reopening of the first store in a dead-on-its-feet-not-too-long-ago mall whose ownership changed hands last fall and whose new operators have vowed to bring back. It's a nice ladies clothing store-think of it as Victoria's Secret without Secrets (especially if we're talking this Victoria)) and we fell into laughing about all the folks who showed up in City Council chambers the night the developers introduced themselves to us, and the keen interest in what was going to happen and questions about the near and long term future fielded that night.

Fast forward seven months and it's the members of the City Council, all the members (you couldn't say about about the last Council) and some of the other staff from City Hall and me and my guy. In the ladies store. Being cool and everything, of course, and I look up, after admiring the colorful displays and all the new window treatments and lighting effects and smile as an unkind thought crosses my mind. Just then I realize Herr Rosencrantz to my Guildenstern is smiling to himself as well.

We're watching the sales staff of the store who had to be worried they would have jobs when all of this got said and done, smiling as they share pastries and a box of coffee chatting and laughing with the members of the Council, oblivious to the fact that every one of the 'concerned citizens' who made it a point to make a point that night, mostly obscured by clouds, in Council chambers have just too much else they are worried about now to come and see the first fruits of this new partnership and collaboration at the Norwichtown Commons.        

They'd have found the time if the effort had foundered or had failed entirely. Perhaps they're still waiting on the latter or even counting on it. Schadenfreude ist auch ein freude. Sorry you had to make due with your WPP on a pretty decent Saturday morning. The biggest problem with abandoning a sinking ship that doesn't sink is that hellaciously long swim back to shore. Good luck with that cold comfort and change.
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Maybe She'll Sing Two

This weekend Boston, and everyone who loves baseball, is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park-for some, America's Best Loved and oldest operating baseball stadium (not so much the former in my house). Who else but the New York Yankees would you bring to town to help you celebrate a centennial? (My first guess was the Mormon Tabernacle Choir but their farm team hasn't produced a decent second baseman in a decade).

Game time this afternoon is 4:05 and tickets are, theoretically, available. I would hope Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo would have the game on NESN but it's probably Joe Buck and Tim McCarver on Fox. I assume it's the Fox Game of the Week because it's a no-brainer and when you add that to Fox Sports, the low-hanging fruit is so low, it's on the shelf in the grocer's.

There's probably no chance the TV guys are going to carry the singing of the National Anthem because they've sold all that time already and 162 games in a season times 240 teams in the league (or are those just the ones who make the playoffs; with all the wildcard stuff I forget) we're talking decades of singing.

Which is too bad, today, because for those going they get to hear a Sudbury Home Girl, Linda Chorney (I spelled it right the first time, for a change) who now hangs her hat in Sea Bright, New Jersey (second only to Ocean Grove as my favorite shore retreat; Point Pleasant Beach and its North Pole Bar is my all-time crazy time place to go) do the honors on that well-known Francis Scott Key composition

Her Emotional Jukebox is the best record you've never heard (or heard of) and is an absolute gem mostly because, as even a casual read of her blog will reveal, she is very passionate and articulate about those things she chooses to write and sing about. She was almost well-known for winning a Grammy for Best Americana Album, but she didn't win one and so became well-known for how she almost won one which seemed to upset a lot of people who regard music as product. My technical term for such people is azzhole.

Singing at Fenway is a bucket list item for her as, slight character flaw, she roots for the Sox. I'm grateful her husband is a Yankees fan. Here's a great tune from her that you should enjoy even if you're a Royals' fan, though I'm not sure they are actually real. I, for one, have always enjoyed the observation by blackbirdilona in commenting on the song.

But since we can't see her sing the Star-Spangled Banner, I'll offer you a gem buried deep in her blog-a spontaneous collaboration she did with Shaun Hopper a few weeks ago and that always makes me smile-even, and especially, if her Red Sox manage to beat my Yankees.
-bill kenny

Friday, April 20, 2012

From Yad Vashem to Cover the Night

Sometimes the calendar conspires to bring the past, distant and the not-quite-so, into the present so vehemently and violently we cannot look away even if we so choose (and we do often so choose, too often). Around the world this week have been memorials marking Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance) but today for different and also the same reasons, should be the highwater mark as we do instead of say.

Where words fail, pictures have to capture emotions and the Holocaust provokes emotions unlike any other historic occurrence. Having been in Bergen-Belsen and Dachau, but never to the industrial strength murder factories, I may have a better idea than some of the scale and scope of the catastrophe that befell European Jewry eighty (!) years ago, but no one can "understand" what happened because what happened was insanity intersecting with depravity that surpassed understanding. 

The Holocaust is six million murdered Jews but so many more, and others, were collateral damage that the mind almost stutters trying to grasp the enormity of the horror. Poles, Gypsies, Communists, Russian POWs, homosexuals, physically and mentally handicapped, Jehovah's Witnesses, Roman Catholic clergy, political prisoners of all stripes and other 'undesirables' all were tossed into the meat grinder's maw where they were worked to death and dispatched with a bullet to the back of the head, starved or gassed.

Killing those unlike ourselves is something we do as a  species on a regular and recurring basis here on the Big Blue Marble. We're the only ones who do-animal, vegetable or mineral-the undisputed heavyweight champions of the world. It's not confined or restricted by geography or ideology. No continent or people are immune to it. The Holocaust might be noteworthy because hatred harnessed the Industrial Age to deliver carnage on a conveyor belt for the first time in our collective history.But it hasn't been the last time.

Biafra, Somalia and the Balkans are just some of the more notable recent genocides and they may well pale in comparison to what we don't yet know about all the dirty little wars fought throughout The Arab Spring and across equatorial Africa. I mention this, because, with any luck at all, today will be an historic day as a CMB, Champion Murderous Bastard, Joseph Kony, will be stopped.

His path has been bloody if largely ignored by those of us we who live in The West and who are most comfortable seeing him as a Third World Problem. The real problem, of course, is there is only One World and we are all in it, and so is Joseph Kony. The Eastern US liberal aged white guy that I believe myself to be says 'apprehend the miscreant and put him on trial' but the Jersey guttersnipe in me says, 'never mind the cost-find him today and put him down as you would a mad dog.'

Our global village makes possible so many miracles on a daily basis that finding and ending (yet another) mass murderer's career should be routine. Every day's the end of days for some, or at last for this one. It's time to cover the night. Every moment we live on this planet, we add to the story of Us. And the story for today is remarkably simple and unadorned: Today is the day to Make Joseph Kony History.
-bill kenny

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Careful with that Fingerpointing

I actively dislike that we can consider ourselves, with reason, to be the Crown of Creation, and yet do and are as stupid as the day is long-. Having spent a year  in Greenland above the Arctic Circle I'm here to tell you their summer days are 24 hours of non-stop daylight.

I mention that because I am just as inclined to reach for the cheap thrills, and the low-hanging fruit-the line of least resistance news items when I believe/hope no one is watching (to include me I guess). It happened yesterday wandering through a headline compilation (see you later, aggregator!) that included a peg to the recently passed IRS filing deadline, that was tied to a much larger issue.

Congress is grunting and groaning like they will seriously attempt to 'lift the tax burden' from our shoulders, my fellow 99%. Pigs will fly and Elvis, himself, will return with PB and banana fried sandwiches before any of us have a 'fair tax code' but we love hearing that siren song. Thankyewverymuch. It's a Presidential election year, all the seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs as are a third of the Senate seats. Of course Congress is looking at tax code reform. They've been accused of being many things; stupid is never among them.

I gave serious thought to clicking the link and reading the story, since I still have a job and earn an income ("too much" say the people I work for) so, to a large extent, I have a dog in this hunt, but then, just below appealing to every single base instinct, there was this: "Lindsay Lohan: The Judge Said No Clubs and Coachella Ain't No Club!" Almost gave my clicking finger an embolism nailing that one.

I don't even care about this person and could probably not tell you three movies, or anything else, she's ever been in. She's Professionally Famous, As Seen On TV. She doesn't do anything and she doesn't have to. She attracts eyeballs every time her name shows up in a story. If I were the Grain Price Control Authority (sounds cool doesn't it? I imagine the silk tour jackets are killers.) I would start carpet bombing major and minor media outlets with press releases entitled: "Lindsay Lohan Has Nothing to Do with this Story."

See? It almost worked. You clicked on it and then went 'waitaminit! Where's the pictures? What kind of a Lindsay Lohan story is this?' And then your remembered to read the whole headline and realized the error of your ways. We do it all the time, everyday.

Taliban battling Afghan National Army (btw, Zabihullah, if the attacks were such a "success", whose guys were face-down dead in the dirt eight times over? Care to wager after a month of such 'successes' we'd see  the end of all of this?) or should we catch up on Khloe Kardashian? The slaughter of innocents that is Assad's Syria or dig how ripped Paris Hilton looks in whatever it is she's wearing. Pick an event, any event-you can find the polar opposite pablum in less than a minute and that's what most of us will choose. And then we sit around and wonder 'how come Fox News is so popular?' Tell me about the rabbits, George.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Helping Put the Green in Greeneville

Sunday is Earth Day. Technically, everyday is Earth Day with special emphasis on April 22nd, the date in 1970 when the first Earth Day was observed. I marched in the parade that day in NYC and am not proud to admit we left quite a mess for others to clean up.

I have a chance to atone for that youthful indiscretion this Sunday morning and so do you when we volunteer for the Shetucket River Cleanup that kicks off at 9 in the parking area created by the Norwich Public Utilities where the 8th Street Bridge and Roosevelt Avenue meet.

You can sign up by calling Peter Procko at 860-908-5532 and then show up Sunday with work gloves, sturdy work shoes and, if you have one, a rake. There’s a lot to do and we’re going to need all the help we can get and then some.

I confess joining late the Shetucket River and Greeneville Dam fan club. It was about a month ago I wandered past the information kiosk about the fish found below, and above, the "new" dam in the Shetucket and read about the fish ladder. It was a fine walk on a mild March Saturday. Understand "new" dam is a relative term, having been built in 1915 to replace the "old" one, from 1828, sections of which are still visible upriver.

I shared part of the walk with a resident and occasional fisherman who told me stories of the life and times of earlier-than-his-generations of Greeneville residents and the influence of the now long-gone industries the Shetucket River fostered and furthered on his youth and on all those youngsters with whom he grew up.

Greeneville was named for William P. Greene who purchased land on both sides of the Shetucket River in 1826 for development, proving even then Norwich was a good investment. In 1828 Greene transferred his purchases to the Norwich Water Power Company, (he was the largest shareholder), and the original dam was constructed in 1828. I have no idea if an historic predecessor to the Norwich Community Development Corporation was involved in the construction as the city's preferred developer and don't know anyone old enough to know in order to ask.

Even with our mild winter and the dry Spring forcing water levels to record lows and exposing more riverbank than has been seen in a century or more, you'll hear the Shetucket roar before you see the dam. There's a constant hum, probably like that of one hundred and eighty years ago that drove water wheels producing the power needed by mills to turn out the cloth made into uniforms of Union soldiers in the Civil War and drove the foundries that forged cannon balls and grapeshot fired in the battles that preserved our nation.

I realize asking you to give up a few hours or more (it's been a mess for a long time, I'm not going to lie to you) is asking a lot, especially on a Sunday but important people do important things and this is important, not just for Greeneville but for all of us who live here. Please join us Sunday and help save the planet, or at least a small part of it and to assure Greeneville’s story remains a part of our history.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Time of Innocence

As much as I am ill at ease with much of what God (and Bill Gates, Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Marc Zuckerberg) hath wrought I do love how technology allows us to reach out and touch those with whom we had lost touch.

I'm thinking, maybe, the last time I saw Sara J she was Sara P, having moved up from V and was heading back to the Land of the Round Door Knobs. It was thirty years ago if it were a day and I believe it was longer than that. Yesterday, I saw her again-she was kind enough to take time off from visiting her family to cross the frontier from Central Massachusetts through Northern Connecticut to share some memories of mutual acquaintances and some not so mutual as well during lunch at La Stella Pizza.

When I arrived at American Forces Network Europe Headquarters in Frankfurt am Main in the fall of 1976 after a year in Sondrestrom, Greenland, Sara was a fixture in Bob M's Radio Command Information shop. She, Marge L., Norm H. and Brian B. (with whom I still correspond) were the shop. Norm was nominally 'in charge' as he was the highest ranking military person in the room but if you wanted it done, and done creatively, whatever it was, you gave it to Sara and she did it.

I can recall a Halloween radio drama she wrote and produced from scratch with evil and awful afoot at "Moot Point (!)" "Where?" "Never mind." Probably right down the narrative from Rising Gorge, another of her geographic inventions to propel her Wellesian homage on its way. She was Marsha to Rik D's John (or without the H? Memory fades) and she was Connie Rodd of PM Magazine who delivered double entendre about dual exhausts in sultry tones that probably caused the wax in Army tank mechanics' ears to harden.

I was always more than a little intimidated by her. She lived so intensely and so out loud she made the rest of us seem like we were beige footwear in an era of argyle anarchy. Over pizza and soft drinks yesterday on the hottest day of the year so far, we reviewed and refreshed the catalog of nearly-lost recollections-Trevor became Trent and Leslie's husband Benny became, rightly so, Barry. Neither of us can recall what became of Shelby, so if you're reading this Shelby W, roger up, okay?

She's a mom and a grandma who has logged the miles and months in far off places where and when her children have needed her and returned home to The Other Coast because that's where her heart is. I hope I'm not overstepping when I say that, and she is so charming I can forget she's a Red Sox fan. I just can't forgive it.

And next time, assuming one of the two of us follows through and invites Lee (and when did that become my job anyway?) we'll have ourselves quite a Hot Stove League with the Mirthful Mr. Met. As it was, yesterday was just about perfect, though not picture perfect and we didn't miss that either as who needs a photograph when you have your memories.
-bill kenny

Monday, April 16, 2012

This is Real

I rail a lot, probably too much, about how we use and abuse technology for less than noble purposes. That is, instead of using connectivity and convergence to further collaboration and attack and overcome pandemics like world hunger, poverty and drought, we send one another knock-knock jokes or write brave little screeds about how we waste the potential of our tools. Oh dear, that was awkward.

Moving right along. I met someone on line yesterday who is a Facebook friend of someone (else) who is a Facebook friend of mine, whom I shall never meet. He, in turn, is a Facebook friend of someone I did meet, once years ago. None of us are the same people we were when we met, or didn't back then or now. I shan't meet yesterday's new friend either because they live in Ghana which I had to look up to learn anything more than don't call it The Gold Coast (an inside joke for us Connecticans that is often too hip for the room) and because FB friends are like morning dew in daylight.

They used to live in Canada and how they came to be in Ghana is, with a variation of destination and destiny, much the same tale each of us has as to how we got to where we are without ever addressing the why. The story intended to put one at ease, however, creates more questions than it answers but though it is probably fiction that's not the larger point.

We all know people from on line communities who used to live elsewhere, except we don't really know. What we've done is made the acquaintanceship of others on line who've told us they are from somewhere else and we've chosen, to a point, to accept those stories, or not..When all is said and done, nothing is said or done. Round and round goes the gossip and fills up the day. I think I see the point of no return on the road sign up ahead.

I'll assume on occasion, like me, you have difficulties making flesh and blood (F&B) friends-the Facebook (FB) kind are rarely the same people as in 'real life.' It's the struggle to keep the realms separate and the ability to know when they can be joined that makes so much of what we do and who we are as interesting and intriguing as it is and not just another ghost that slips right through your hands. And whatever we learn today is equal parts history and mystery by this time tomorrow when we start again.
-bill kenny 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

And Now It's Down to this?

Yesterday afternoon our son, Patrick, sent me a FB site with "9 Classic Calvin and Hobbes Strips" or something like that-one of the many places devoted to the two Reformation thinkers who manifested themselves as Bill Watterson's creations a lifetime ago, for some of us.

I mention that to give you a starting point and will not speak of it again, at least today (I hope). One of the panels involved Calvin telling a story in school about how deer were hunting humans, employing all the turns of phrase that outdoors men use in explaining why they killed Bambi. Of course, Calvin using them in the manner in which he is prompts a request for a parent teacher conference and Calvin's folks are seen at the breakfast table trying to figure out who went to the last summit.

Having been the child in the household who was suspended for laughing at the teacher (a nun) in sixth grade and who was suspended for fighting in the recess yard in seventh grade (I think I was suspended twice; once for fighting and the other for losing the fight though after that my antagonist became my buddy), I can relate and more.

Of course, I tell these tales now because when our children went to school, their mom had a get out of jail free card, "I went to Deutsche Schule" so her other continent educational experience wasn't held against her. While my Mom and Dad raised crazy children, they didn't raise stupid ones so I figured my chances of keeping our two unguided missiles on the proper trajectory would disappear entirely if I 'fessed up to being the malicious miscreant I actually was.

Yes, I became the parent who walked six miles in the snow uphill in both directions every day to school, even on Saturday and Sunday, because my father was too poor to afford weekends (was never sure how well that played with either of our kid, but they were and are very polite so I skated), who always did all of his homework, and everyone else's, at least when I was telling the story and whose teachers wept at the end of each school year when I graduated to the next grade and class.

And that was true as far as it went. They wept for joy because I was gone, but tears are tears whatever the reason and sometimes truth is the first casualty of parenting if you want to avoid a new error.  
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 14, 2012

I Can't Stop Puttin' On Other Peoples' Clothes

Blame it on Friday the 13th though for me it marked the end, not a contributory factor to, an egregiously long and especially awful week. The days dragged and nights sped by-I have no idea what happened or why and as happy as I am that today is Saturday, I'm sad because it makes Monday that much closer.

About the only good thing that happened this week was this. And I'm not sure I can explain to you, or to myself, why I think that is. Hope you enjoy.
-bill kenny

Friday, April 13, 2012

Does a Black Cat See His Own Reflection

There are over seven billion of us currently alive here on The Big Blue Marble. I don't pretend to know the quality of those lives, though I suspect there are peaks and valleys amongst and betwixt and a fair number of 'doing okay" folks mingled throughout the population

I didn't conduct a survey or graph a trend on that response based on counting the answers to my favorite casual questions, 'how's it going? or it's separated at birth parsed twin 'how are you doing?" mainly because these are space and time fillers. We don't listen to each other when we answer those questions and rarely actually listen to each other when asking them. It's a dance routine, a verbal hokey-pokey and we turn ourselves about.

Point in fact, suggests more and more writing from behaviorists, sociologists and communications specialists, despite having technological wonders to serve as threads to bind us to one another and to the fabric of our society, we are more alone than at any time in recorded history. Read this by Stephen Marche in The Atlantic (my very favorite magazine of all time) and see if you don't agree with more of his points rather than fewer.  

That I'm sharing it in this form and through this venue sort of proves his point, and saves us both a lot of face to face awkwardness, me especially. The ankle bracelet goes off when I leave the county and the judge says if he catches me out on the street again without the required international emergency orange protective vest walking at least twenty paces behind the flagman with the siren, he's revoking bail and taking away my birthday. I've got a feeling this is the year for the pony ride so I am treading carefully.

But kidding aside (and that's what most of the above paragraph was), instead of recognizing how often we are all in the same boat, we decry the size of the ocean. Or like Hamlet, be bound in a nutshell and never recognize the beauty of this world with which we have surrounded ourselves as we continue shuffling along with the lost and remaining lost in the shuffle.
-bill kenny

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Wisdom of Sister Jean

As a child going to Saint Peter's (sic) School in New Brunswick, New Jersey, I hadn't started out with nuns as teachers, the Sisters of Charity (but with very little towards anyone in their classrooms), but with Mrs. H. in third grade followed by Mrs McG. in fourth.

After that, perhaps because we had already been confirmed so our amateur eligibility as Catholics was exhausted, we had Sister Thomas Anne in fifth, Sister Rosita in sixth, an entirely different Sister Thomas Anne in seventh (only her hairdresser knows for sure) and Sister Mary Jean in eighth grade.

We weren't a whole lot better in her eyes than those mission babies for whom we were forever collecting, except, for the most part, we had shoes (that she hectored us to keep clean and shined (boys only)). And like all creatures NOT (yet) in a religious order, we were NOT (ever) to be trusted. I don't imagine any religion has a minimum height requirement (though I don't recall any Pygmy Krishnans) but Sister Mary Jean would have been close. Actually, she was already close-as in closer to the floor than farther away.

Her job was to take children in eighth grade and make them into young adults ready to attend high school. She was very good at it though with us, it took everything she had. But of all of the crosses she had to bear, the hardest one was gum chewing. Gum to us was what cigarettes were for our folks-an activity that happened almost anywhere at almost any time.

When Sister Mary Jean caught a student chewing gum (and her hearing was so keen she could detect the sound of foil-covered paper being slipped off a stick of Bill Wrigley's Finest at thirty paces during a thunder storm), she would loudly demand of the miscreant: "Do you have enough for everyone?" Since no one ever planned on getting caught, the answer was whatever "doh!" sounded like in 1966.

That would mean the following school day, we would all be treated to gum after lunch, recess and a return to the classroom because the offender would have to bring in gum for everyone. Coming across this story, I thought of Sister Mary Jean and how wise she was to have lived when she did. She subscribed to our Mom's favorite axiom, "don't ask the question if you can't stand the answer" and how, this time, she would have been silent, sullen and stunned. It's preferable to the alternative.
-bill kenny           

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Swearing Quietly

In the words of Bob Dylan, "Money doesn't talk, it swears." And this time last week, lots of people across the region, to include residents of Norwich, who've been quietly (and not so quietly) suffering from economic hard times, had plenty to talk about as next fiscal year's municipal budgets were unveiled to somewhat less than rapturous reviews..

Misery loves company and to read the on-line comments, listen to some of the call-in reaction on local radio and speak with neighbors, there seemed to be plenty of misery to go around. Here in Norwich, the City Manager's proposed budget of $113.4 million would, if approved as presented, precipitate a tax increase of just under 5%, causing howls of disbelief mixed with protest from residents and property owners.

It was probably of very little solace to any of them in learning their neighbors in New London were suffering even greater sticker shock as their Mayor's proposed $87 million budget would require a nearly 20% tax increase.

Monday night, the City Council held its first public hearing on the proposed budget. I think it's safe to assume all involved in the process, from the City Manager through the alderpersons to the various city department employees, and, most importantly, the residents, understand nothing is ever eaten as hot as it's served, and the proposed budget is just that, proposed.

The Council has already started conversations with the various city departments on why they asked for what they requested. There was a session last Tuesday evening with Public Works and Public Utilities among others and there's more next Tuesday, the 17th, to include a presentation by the Mayor on Economic Development that may be of more than casual interest followed by an early morning session next Saturday, the 21st, in the Taftville Volunteer Fire Department, with emergency management and public safety.

There's a meeting with the Board of  Education on its requested budget, as well as what the City Manager proposed, scheduled for April 26th, before the City Council holds its second public hearing the middle of next month, May 14th to be exact.

It's important that your voice is heard but as important that what you have to say is informed and factual. By the time this season is over there will be enough shouting and pointing for everyone. You don't need to get loud-what you need to do is improve the quality of your argument, be it pro or con. Start by getting copies of the proposed budget here (for the Cut to the Chase summary) and here (for the unabridged version of the full budget). I don't know where you can get extra parentheses (), but you're welcome to those two.

It's more than a good idea to attend the various meetings the Council is having to better understand what the various departments do and how they benefit the city. For instance, I did not know Public Works makes all of our street signs-I hadn't lost a lot of sleep worrying about it, but it was a reminder to NOT take things for granted. Also, did you know Public Utilities has its own space program? Or that one of the two preceding sentences was fiction?

If you had attended last Tuesday's session, you'd know which. See you at the launchpad. Bring Tang.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The New, the True and the Unexpected

Mike Wallace who may have had more to do with shaping the public perception of a CBS News TV Show, "60 Minutes," as the television version of Christians to the Lions, died this past weekend, out of the spotlight in which he had lived and worked for many decades. He was 93 years old.

I never met Mike Wallace, and I've never been to Spain, but I had a chance to watch him work many decades ago when American TV news was still intoxicated by the idea of satellite coverage and, during sweeps week (rating periods that measured viewership and, in turn, dictated advertising rates) they'd fly their high profile reporters to the ends of the earth (or someplace from which they could see the ends of the earth) basically to prove they could do it and to attract viewers who'd tune in to see familiar faces in out of the ordinary places.

Wallace and a 60 Minutes crew ended up in the International Departures lounge of the Frankfurt Flughafen for reasons that if I knew, I've long since forgotten, but I'm pretty sure that's not the important part. The chance to be a fly on the wall, from a not inconsiderable distance while he improvised, then rehearsed and finally recorded the bridges, stand-ups and closes, was amazing.

As everything is digital now, in the time of this tale, TV news/features were recorded in the field on videotape cartridges (I'd learned (loose definition) field reporting on Sony Rover decks, portable reel to reel half inch black and white tape machines that weighed about as much as a boat) sealed and self-contained, fully threaded that were loaded into a portable recorder connected to a camera.

Wallace and his 60 Minutes crew had come of age in TV news when everything was SOF, sound on film. Ten years after tape had replaced film, Wallace, force of habit still clapped his hands to conclude a countdown, because in the days of film, that on-camera hand clap had been used to synchronize the audio and the visual on the Steenbeck edit table.  What followed was magic, but very hard work as well.

He spent close to a half hour working on the phrasing, the language and the intonation of what was, perhaps at best, no more than twenty seconds total of on-air material. He had discussions with the cameraman and the lighting grip on sitting versus standing versus walking versus camera movement. He was completely absorbed in the process and an active participant, not a "star" but the guy whose job was being on-camera. He was oblivious to those of us watching him and driven to produce the best possible story elements to put on the air.

And then just as intently and intensely as he'd been working, the segment was concluded and a smile as bright as the sun and as wide as the horizon broke out over his face as his crew packed gear for the drive from Frankfurt to Bonn for a stop at the US Embassy, located in the then-capital of West Germany. He made small talk with the gallery, asking those of us in uniform where we were from in the US and how we liked Germany.

He wasn't so much marking time as listening for clues and motivations, it seemed to me, cocking his head slightly to his left side as if his right ear were stronger, eyes looking straight ahead and fixed on nothing but trying to see what you were saying, and tightening his jaw slightly as you spoke to him, taking it all in.

Just as suddenly as he had arrived-he was gone. And our concerns, battling the traffic back to Bertramstrasse 6 where the A3 became Miquel-Adickesalle and who had charge of quarters duty and who was available to log tape for whatever it was we had been shooting when we returned to the station. Not that our encounter didn't provide us with a terrific story to tell everyone back in the AFN HQ building that afternoon, including people who claimed not to care, when we finally got there.

Remembering all of that (from about thirty or so years ago) I wondered not so much if there is a Heaven (pretty much beyond my paygrade and control) but, rather, if the reaction up there were any different than in these parts so often when it was announced "Mike Wallace is here."
-bill kenny               

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Music of Rebellion Makes You Wanna Rage

There was an interesting story in one of my local newspapers yesterday. Sundays are always good days for newspapers, everywhere. They have a backlog of wire features they stick on pages they've already sold advertising for and while you and me read right past the 'pick the best pizza contest' on the back of the article, the display sales folks get all sweaty and worked-up about the readership.

Anyway, the story was about the success of SiriusXM and it was probably in your local paper, too. Not too many years ago there were two satellite radio services each one making just enough to survive without prospering. When they decided to merge they had to persuade Congress they weren't a combination in restraint of trade as alleged by Clear Channel Communications who were, themselves, regarded by many as an affront to people everywhere who enjoyed music for music's sake.

I have no love of Clear Channel as I'm sure you just realized. In their heyday, they were the successors to Drake Chenault, with no heart at all but now they are no longer the dominant FM music programmer in the USA (I don't know if there are ball caps to that effect anywhere or how much they'd cost). I listened to Sirius when it was just Sirius in the days before car radios had satellite as part of the standard equipment packages which meant a sort of blast from the past, with FM converters of the early seventies when AM radio was king.

These were tuners you plugged into the back of the dashboard AM radio and then tuned to 1600kc or thereabouts which was a part of the spectrum rarely used and at which you could then employ the FM synthesizer to tune in the FM Rock stations who were to dominate so much of the radio landscape for the next decades. The trouble was the folks who owned those stations got bought by the suits who needed more profits and knew how to make that happen: standardization and syndication.

Yeah, it made for sound-alike radio stations that were cookie-cutter creations, but most of us didn't care and in the big scheme of things as pursuit of MBAs became paramount over original thought and independent ethics and morals, it was the perfect soundtrack for the lives we led. Eventually it led to the invention of satellite radio which brings us to SiriusXM and now, reading the article, the next iteration of music delivery and programming. And Jose Mangin should tread more carefully. If he's hanging his hat on the crap and pap that often passes for music on his employer, he'd be best-advised to go bareheaded.

I stopped my subscription to SiriusXM shortly after the two services merged because of the attractiveness of alternatives like Slacker, Pandora, Spotify and, much more recently, Ear Bits. The latter offers me an almost unending stream of new music and musicians whose acquaintance I had not previously made. I can always fall back on one of the other providers when I need a Bruce fix or a dash of Amazing Groundhogs or Frightened Rabbit.

I realize music is a business-but it's more magic than money, or should be. It's one of the wonders of the world that has too often become part of the machinery and scenery surrounding us on all sides of the journey. We are in danger of forgetting it's an expression of our experiences, the good and the bad, and that we should celebrate it always.
-bill kenny     

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What Light

If you are observing Easter Sunday today, best wishes and all the happiness of the holiday. Like me, I'm sure you have difficulty explaining the relationship of chocolate, a bunny and the Resurrection of Christ (unless you just choose to overlook all of it). We may not be pulling on the same oar, but we're both in that boat. I think if we put our backs into it, we can still reach shore.

Actually, and I reckon time in this instance by the day, Easter Sunday, rather than the date on the calendar, today thirty-five years ago asked the woman I was seeing, Sigrid Schubert, to marry me-more importantly for the history books, is that today is when she said yes.

Sigrid told me later she had at first thought I was getting ready to break up with her-sounds like a great argument to NEVER play poker for money with me, except I tend to have all the emotional range of Rainman in a coma, so I should be grateful she held on and waited for the ride to get to....

...Here. Where she and I are now is, in some respects, not all that far from where we started. The material conditions have changed-we had a two room cold-water walk-up flat off a bus line in Offenbach am Main a 'small' German city with more people in it than who lived in ALL of New London County, Connecticut when we arrived here twenty-and-a-half years ago. Our home today is across from the landmark park in the city of Norwich, an industrial revolution meets the American Revolution town that is found so often in New England.  That we were here isn't/wasn't part of either of our visions of our future proving again, life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.

Our wedding rings have both the date of our engagement (technically, that anniversary was earlier last week) as well as of our wedding. I only very rarely take my ring off and actually cannot recall the last time (I just did it to make sure I still can and I can)-and I mention that because I don't especially like jewelry and spend all day putting on and taking off my wristwatch and my medical alert bracelets. The ring is a constant, not that I need the reminder.

We were, with apologies to Erich Fromm, a coalition of two against the world from the beginning. I'm not comfortable with new people, taking forever to warm up to them-with the exception of the two who joined our lives, our children. We were three and then became four and then three again and soon enough we'll be back to just the two of us, where we started and I am with the person in the world with whom I am most comfortable.

Sigrid is, for me, like breathing out and breathing in, though I fear I have given her moments where the judicial application of a pillow to my sleeping face has crossed her mind, and so much for the breathing. And that's fair-actually more than fair. This is a day I usually spend looking at where we've been and where I hope we're going but today, I'm thinking more of enjoying just where we are and what we have, which is, as it has been for thirty-four years, one another. She brightens any room and always brightens my world.
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 7, 2012

End of Days

I have never been to the Vatican, nor have I stayed at a well-known motel chain, but I know my way around the Stations of the Cross and the Lives of the Saints. I'm always amazed at the number of people who think Christmas is the origin of Christianity-others consider the beginnings to be Easter Sunday.

If the former is The Promise and the latter The Promise Fulfilled-today, Holy Saturday, is the act of faith and hope that defines you as a Christian. The belief in the Resurrection which the New Testament portrays as  the reward for the faithful is never so near and yet so far as it is today.

The earliest disciples had nothing to go on, unlike we of the Brave New World Order. They had witnessed a crucifixion-one of the most egregiously horrific forms of death sentence at its time. Cowering in an upstairs room, huddled together while fearing any sound and every footfall was possibly a signal someone was coming for them, they had no way to see the glory of Easter Sunday. All they could do was believe.

For them to believe as devoutly as they did between the worst day in the history of the world and its greatest day, remains, for me-loyal son of Holy Mother Church, but a FARC  for more years than I care to recall-the day which created the Christian religion, today.

From childhood on, I struggled against the suffocation that surrender to the traditions and the rites seemed to signify. I took no solace in unquestioning and unswerving belief-preferring what I understood the path of Thomas to be and, finding no one who could answer my questions, absenting myself from the body of believers. How odd that this declaration of freedom has never created a sense of being free.

Not that I don't envy those of faith and think about the comfort that comes from that, especially as I did last night reading  the accounts of the death of Captain Nicholas Rozanski. He came all the way from Dublin, Ohio, to be lost in the fog of war, along with SFC Jeffrey Rieck and SFC Shawn Hannon, on the streets of Maimanah, an otherwise unremarkable spot on a map of a nation we have carried with us as a coward does an abscess for over a decade, unable or unwilling (I can never tell which) to do that which we know we must to conclude that which  we can no longer control.

Captain Rozanski's death should be another reminder to those of us who are alive to redouble our efforts to be the best people we can be in The Now because The Next, as the New Testament illustrates, can be so lonely and uncertain without a reason to believe. Either you have a reason, or you become one for someone else. When you do, every day is Easter.
-bill kenny          

Friday, April 6, 2012

You Oughta Know Not to Stand By the Window

I was summoned for jury duty yesterday to New London's (Connecticut) Superior Court. I haven't been in very many other courtrooms, for any reason, so I don't know how superior it is but I was pleased with the accommodations. I'm not going to tell you about the jury selection process we had to go through (imagine  American Idol without Randy Jackson but with William Hung) or who was picked and why those who weren't didn't get selected for a lot of reasons to include I'm not supposed to.

Perhaps jury duty across these United States is like The Spanish Inquisition only with fewer soutanes. Considering how hard people struggle to get out of it, I can't blame you for thinking it must be horrible. And yet the right to a trial by a jury of one's peers is one of out most cherished Constitutionally protected rights. At least until now. It was a day where I didn't feel very cherished, let me tell you.

Especially since while I'm sitting in the courthouse waiting for whatever is supposed to happen next, unlike the folks I got an eyeful of in the colorful jumpsuits riding in the camp bus (they tell themselves) who don't want anything to happen next except for the present to remain the future just as it is, the Kapital Kids, the men and women we've elected to head to Washington D. C. are at it again.

We should have driven a second stake through its heart, but the Stop Online Piracy Act (and the sabotage and subversion of a stunning number of personal rights as collateral damage) has reared its ugly head again, this time put into play by the President of the United States who vowed the last time to NEVER let it return. Never is a word, perhaps like "sex" fifteen or so years ago for which the White House has a sliding definition.   With apologies to Scully and Muldur, once again we need to fight FOR the future. You can do your part by signing this online petition.

Some people, it seems, will only keep their promises while we watch them. I guess we'll need to start sleeping in shifts or we'll end up in some deep sh*t. Go ahead and turn in, I have the first watch. You can use the rest.
-bill kenny    

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Now summer is here, even if the calendar says otherwise. After some sneaked in opening days (I'm thrilled we play Major League Baseball in Japan; but when are we going to host Japanese teams at US ballparks?), now we can begin. And lest you get confused my little friend, when I say 'we" I mean (of course) the New York Yankees (I heard your sigh), and I understand it.

Please don't point at the scoreboard, or the standings or the calendar. I knew it's first week-but when you've rooted for a team, any team, your whole life, you have hopes and dreams. Actually, in Kansas City or Milwaukee, you have hopes and dreams. In Yankee Universe, you have expectations.

Fans are thrilled in Red Sox Nation, when their pitchers watch a game to the end or when the BoSox make the playoffs. We Yankees fans yawn. Our legion of detractors have figured us out: we not only expect to get to the World Series every year, we demand it. And we demand the team win it. And when they don't, and that happens more often than they do, despite being one of the most successful teams in major league sports anywhere on earth, we deride them for being overpaid choke artists.

That's what we practice during Spring training. You and your team's fans scout players and prospects. We look for scape goats and discuss grey clouds surrounding silver linings. We rant at the owners for not understanding you can't buy a championship team, but expect them to do exactly that every year. And if that post turtle with maximum attitude and minimal smarts, Hank Steinbrenner, needs Tommy Johns surgery on his check writing hand, get a reliever in there!

Unforgivably arrogant-and we know it. Come the last week of the season, you may have a measure of revenge if I don't offer a divisional playoff preview or crow over a starting lineup whose strength I believe ( = fervently hope) will be buttressed by the return of Dandy Andy who retired at the end of NOT last season but the season before. Sure, we'll have to have a new delivery service for our desserts, but that's a part of life, like learning how to lay down a bunt. Or not.

We Yankees fans are insufferable but you love to hate our team. I don't care if it's raining, or (gulp!) snowing-from here on out everyday is a great day for a baseball game. It's so nice, let's play two, but remember there's no singing in baseball (or at least there shouldn't be).
-bill kenny 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Joe Juran and The Rose of New England

There's a very excellent probability you've never heard of Joseph Juran though where I live, Norwich, Connecticut, like so many other entities and organizations, great and small, is a beneficiary of his most enduring observation. Juran was the 'father' of quality management and extrapolated from an Italian economist,Vilfredo Pareto, was instrumental in developing the 80/20 Principle, that held 80% of all achievements are a result of the efforts of 20% of the population.  

I could have just as easily told you Juran was the chairman of the Left Turn on Red Light Sub-Committee of the Norwich Parking Commission and you would have believed me-not because I'm as honest as the day is long, though I am (and thank goodness for Daylight Savings Time!) but because like most of our neighbors, you and I are in that 80% who enjoy the benefits of the work 'others', mostly unknown to us, accomplish on our behalf.

There are at least forty-one agencies, advisories, boards, commissions and committees in Norwich on which  residents can serve (and technically, through city ordinance and/or state law, must serve). I say at least forty-one because when I checked the municipal website, there are two I know of that aren't listed.

This is not yet another hand wringing harangue about voter turnout last November for the City Council and Board of Education elections. We get the government we deserve and if you choose to not vote, you get to live with the choices I make for both of us, because I am always going to vote.

No, I'm not talking the Big Rooms, but what in Las Vegas might be regarded as the lounge acts, all those volunteers with every imaginable responsibility. The headlines are always about the City Council and the Board of Education but the fine print is with the volunteer groups where (at least) 80% of everything that gets done in Norwich (and conversely that doesn't get done), is proposed and disposed of--discussed, debated and implemented.  

The discussion over appointments to the various boards et al and the process used to determine which volunteer is recommended for what position that surfaced at last month's City Council meeting, as so much does in these hectic times, comes back to who has 'free' time and what is that time worth, to themselves and to their community.

In a city of over 40,000 residents where among all voters, those who are unaffiliated outnumber both registered Democrats and Republicans, how, exactly, do vacancies get filled. Once an interested resident fills out an application, and sends it to either the City Manager's office or to the Office of the Mayor, what happens next? Perhaps the question we're currently trying to answer is why should there be any mystery to the appointment process at all?

Let's face it, we 80% need all the help we can get and if the best way to do that is to expand that 20% to a larger number so we all get the benefit of a greater range and scope of talents and abilities, I don't think any of us will feel badly-served by those friends and neighbors who generously share their time and talents for our greater good.
-bill kenny    

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Not the Best of Times

As I near my 60th birthday, or, technically speaking, the 59th anniversary of my first one, I return to American and World history because I believe who we are now, to a great extent, is who we were when....and America and the world of 2012, liver spots and beauty marks, is to a large extent based on what happened during and after World War II.

A war that was fought before (about) 86% of the world's population were born-waitaminit, there was just another birthday observed in Bali, continues to exert an influence over who we are, and in all likelihood who we shall be. Yesterday morning, the National Archives put on line the census from the last quiet year of American history, perhaps only in my opinion but I don't think so, from 1940.

We were a nation that was still struggling to find its way back from the brink of the abyss, financially. A wildly speculative Wall Street, an unregulated banking industry and good old fashioned greed (odd how it never goes out of style, innit?) had taken us South in 1929 and we stayed there, more or less, despite poking and prodding and sometimes prodding and poking. Bear in mind, the nanny state (as those on the right have taken to calling aspects of our social safety net they hate) did not yet exist. There was no Social Security, no Medicare or Medicaid-no food stamps, no heating assistance. Nothing but the kindness of strangers and the outreach of religious orders and charitable organizations.

How different was the United States of 1940 from the one in which we live today? More than you'd ever dream but far less than you're likely to believe. Dive in and find out for yourself. Save those sepia tinted eyeglasses for reruns of the Jersey Shore-perhaps they'll be better with age, though I doubt it. The big lesson to learn as you glance through the information trying to form a picture of life 'back then' is that we were far more worse off than we are (even) now. And we survived; actually, we triumphed. It's sadness or euphoria and we need to be all in.
-bill kenny