Saturday, January 31, 2015

One Tin Soldier Rode Away

I'm a little late to the party since I didn't pay any attention to him when he last ran for President, though everyone at Fox News did, and I hadn't paid much mind this time around as he was playing should I stay or should I go.

I'm speaking of Mitt Romney, of course, the former Governor of Massachusetts who brought universal access to healthcare to his Commonwealth that is regarded by many as a model for the Affordable Care Act so that not too many years later, as his party's candidate for President, he could disown it at least three times before the Tea Party (the other one, not the one in Boston Harbor) could call upon him to promise to deconstruct it. You have to admire that kind of eagerness.

Anyway, that's all that's really left to do as Mitt announced yesterday he would not seek the 2016 Republican Party nomination for President. I'm not quite clear on what his response would be if that nomination were to be thrust upon him (in a party of Palin, Cruz and Paul, stranger things have happened) and I hope you can forgive me when I tell you I pray we don't find out.

As to the burning question rattling through the former party of Abe Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, who will speak for wealthy white guys yearning to own a political office, the answer is obvious: all the other occupants of the electoral clown car.
-bill kenny

Friday, January 30, 2015

R U Some Kind of Ricardo?

I am a very prejudiced person. I dislike people and/or organizations that offer me less than their best and don't care what happens. Almost from the time we signed on with them (because for decades in Connecticut, you had no choice of cable providers aside from 'take it or leave it'), I've disliked Comcast.

I had and continue to have my reasons, to include most recently (in my opinion) they're becoming a vertical combination in restraint of trade (=monopoly) with their acquisition of NBC Universal, whose program offerings on a number of channels also flows through their cable pipeline.

A number of years ago, I swapped monopolies and went with AT&T U-verse which was bought up (out?) by Frontier last fall. As happy as I was with AT&T, I have been that degree of UNhappy with Frontier and more.

Talk about First World Problems: Close to a dozen times this month alone, we've lost cable, land line and Internet simultaneously) for periods ranging from two to six minutes. That's not enough, yet, to provoke me to switch providers (Comcast would be my alternative, again) but enough to cause me to contemplate it.

And then I read a story like this, and smile, because every time someone tells me I'm too hard on the Too Big To Get Out Of Its Own Way Monopoly (which, by the bye, has some pretty strong feelings about net neutrality and trust me, you wouldn't like them), I'll remember this piece of puerile buffoonery and grit my teeth one more time as Francis, the Frontier spokes-buffalo, ambles across my high def prairie to tell me what a swell fella he is.
-bill kenny

Thursday, January 29, 2015

No Business like Snow Business

We had 22 inches of snow where I live in Norwich, Connecticut, so if you live in the New York metro area and feel cheated because you didn't get what you felt you had been promised, perhaps there was some kind of a logistical error and your precipitation ended up on my front lawn and walk and side yard as well as driveway and garage roof and, etc....(you get the picture). Or not.

Now you have a picture and yes, that's my garage and yes the snow was halfway up the walls and that was in the afternoon before it got exceptionally stupid in these parts. I was standing in our kitchen on an enforced by my wife break from snow clearing when I grabbed that picture and this one as well.

Our daughter, Michelle, in a light-hearted moment-not choosing to catch the flakes with her tongue instead of using her shovel, just being silly. And I was still in the kitchen on a time-out because Sigrid has repeatedly suggested I overdo things a little bit. Thirty-eight years ago, being an excitable boy was a large part of my appeal-hell, for the most part it was my entire appeal.

Now it means I ended up at the doctor yesterday morning and will stay home and heavily medicated the rest of the week with strep throat which is contagious. If you have someone at work you don't care for, let me know and I'll swing by and lick 'em for you. Should keep 'em sidelined for a couple of days or more.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

An Uncas Leap of Faith

You may have missed it in the rush of news and noise about Bill Belichick's invention of the self-inflating football on Friday afternoon but persistence and patience were rewarded as the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DEEP) Office of Brownfield Remediation and Development awarded $300,000 to Norwich to study the environmental clean-up needs at what's left of the Artform building on Yantic Street as part of a larger plan to create the Uncas Leap Heritage Area.

Seven projects from across the state will benefit from $2.2 million in grants through the Historic Brownfield and Revitalization Program, announced by Governor Malloy. The press release announcing the grants outlines using the money for assessing environmental and structural conditions, creating and implementing community-driven reuse plans for 'historical significant brownfield sites.'

I'm sure someone very smart somewhere can tell us what the various projects represent, but I confess to only being interested in the one for here.  I'd like to believe, in light of the competition for finite state money, it means Norwich is taking an important step in turning the scenic secret of Uncas Falls into a critical component of the (so) oft-discussed historic tourism aspect of an economic development plan.

There have been a lot of workshops and discussion groups and planning committees but as Bob Dylan once offered, "money doesn't talk, it swears" and without a first investment from someone and capital infusion that helps convert talk to action, we'd still all be looking at one another and hoping for help coming over the horizon.

I'm always amazed and a little dismayed at the number of Norwich residents who've never visited Uncas Leap and thrilled to the roar of the falls and marveled at the beauty of the gorge carved out by the Yantic River in its rush to the Norwich Harbor and the Thames.

It was the site of a 17th century battle between the Narragansett and Mohegan tribes and later, those rushing waters powered early industrial development by English settlers.

Don't think a cash-strapped state government came up with that money out of the goodness of their hearts. Perhaps, the state saw what a growing number of others have seen and spoken up about in recent years: an opportunity to develop and historic and scenic local landmark into a regional attraction. In any event, they didn't come to that conclusion by themselves, without help.

For volunteers from the Norwich Historical Society, the Mohegan Tribe, the Norwich Community Development Corporation working together with one another and with a variety of municipal departments, receipt of the grant closes a long chapter in the story of Uncas Leap, while propelling and compelling them towards beginning the next one.

They won't have a lot of time to do much more than catch their collective breath before turning their attention to what's next in researching, planning and working to leverage more funding requiring even more work before a visitor's center celebrating a site of breathtaking beauty and regional historical import can be created as part of a plan to successfully market the Uncas Leap Heritage Area as a destination worth a trip from anywhere to see and experience.
-bill kenny 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Never Again. Again.

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Red Army liberating Auschwitz, Poland. You and I might like to believe in the world of 2015 it is impossible that this could ever be forgotten but, looking across the globe, not only is that not so but we encounter deniers who lie to themselves and others who insist that none of the nightmare that was the Nazi's Final Solution ever happened.

These people are not mis-informed. They are evil for so believing and persisting and insisting that the horrors that happened, didn't occur. You're busy and don't have the time for viewing this right now.

I almost understand, except because we don't all have the time for the truth, the lie gets yet another chance to spread some more and it oozes its way into more lives and we sink a little deeper in the muck of our own perdition.

Every year, there are fewer and fewer survivors of the camp who observe the anniversary of its liberation and someday in the not too distant future there will be no one with first-hand recollections. That's why today, in a world with strife and death driven by deep-seated and irrational hatreds of all kinds, we, each of us, needs to be a witness for the truth of the Holocaust and for injustice and murder anywhere we find it on this earth.

As it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.
-bill kenny

Monday, January 26, 2015

Realizing (Again) those are Pine Trees not Palm Trees

The second thing I did yesterday morning when I got up was make arrangements with my work to be able to tele-commute through Wednesday because the first thing I did was check the forecast and discovered a picture is worth a thousand words or a billion snowflakes.

I'm thinking there's a lot to be said for selective color-blindness. And I love the asterisk. However, turn and face the strange....

We have gotten away (so far) with not much of a winter here in Southern New England (I never venture into Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine once the leaves depart the trees), but our luck will, say the meteorologists desert us today into the foreseeable future. Even though we shouldn't complain, I shall because I'm That Guy.

The third thing I did was ready the beast and prepare to release the hounds (okay, technically, one hound or a small number of cc's based on the displacement of the engine)-filled our snow blower with gas, checked the oil and made very sure it turns over and runs.

Two inches I don't mind shoveling. I've been told we might see four inches fall in an hour every hour for most of the afternoon. Mom raised crazy children not stupid ones (okay, after me).  Soon enough, we'll be complaining about the heat and humidity and in the meantime I can enjoy the empty-headed prattlers on Fox tsk-tsking global warming and mentioning this snowstorm as their refutation.

Same logic that says I had a big dinner last night so the notion that anyone in the world goes to bed hungry is a lie. The only thing both "liberal myths" will have in common by Wednesday is Ted Cruz will blame Barack Obama. Film at eleven.
-bill kenny

Sunday, January 25, 2015

When Life Imitates Art

I’m figuring despite my appalling lack of understanding of technology that I am no more than three (more) apps on my smartphone away from no longer needing to converse with anyone outside my family at all. 

That, on a planet with a skosh over 7.2 billion (with a B) people I could have my own private Idaho is, pardon the lack of modesty, pretty cool, even if I do say so myself (especially if I do that). 

And now, based on an article in Friday’s Christian Science Monitor, for those tired of living the dream, come and join me in Nowhere Land. I am less than ‘meh!’ on the name and think something a little more Nat King Coleish, better reflecting the whole deceit and duplicity ambiguity might have been more fitting, but who am I quibble.

As someone who had an imaginary friend, Marty (from the Triple R Ranch) growing up (technically until I was 53 but keep that to yourself) I’m wondering in terms of the scale and scope of the masquerade if it’s considered appropriate to go on invisible vacations to invisible exotic destinations with one’s invisible (girl/boy) friend. No need to worry about the weather and getting that invisible tan since there’s got to be an invisible sun

And when, as it must, the relationship comes to an end, you’ll have a wan smile as you tap the app tiles on your smartphone display and they seem to quake in fear until you consign your pixelated simulation icon to the virtual dustbin. 

Even as the memory fades faster than that taste on your lips of someone you’ve just kissed while surrounded by the girls that don’t exist.
-bill kenny

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Memo to Marie Antoinette

One of the more poorly understood natural laws of the universe is our species’ right to be miserable if that’s what we want to be. A lot is made of the language in the Declaration of Independence suggesting that the USA is the once and future Party Central what with our ‘Unalienable rights…to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.’ Take that Magna Carta or Declaration of the Rights of Man.

But for some of us, any form of pursuit is out of the question and our ability to make ourselves unhappy to be here is only surpassed by our capacity to make others as unhappy about that as we are. Why else would anyone anywhere at any time attempt to special order a cake from Azucar Bakery in Denver Colorado to relay a homophobic message

After the order was refused by the baker, the unhappy would-be customer filed a religious discrimination complaint. How do you feel about this classic expression of exasperation: That really takes the cake doesn’t it? <GROAN> I’m thinking based on that complaint, hate is now a religion? That means things must be really looking up for Westboro Baptist Church and ISIL.    

Talk about It’s My Party (and I’ll Cry if I Want To). 

All you can do is shake your head sometimes at how we behave towards one another. This is the type of story I always mean to return to and ‘see how it all comes out’ and never do because it slips my mind in that it’s showing us at our worst and meanest moment and I don’t really need to add to my collection of those. Quite frankly, neither does anyone else.

-bill kenny

Friday, January 23, 2015

Not News in Boga

Here’s what I know about the Super Bowl (of American football): the Green Bay Packers won the first two and Joe Namath and the New York Jets won the third one. There have been others, lots of others. I think this year’s edition is #49 or as the NFL so pompously loves to call it XLIX (plus sales tax?).

The biggest story right now judging from its placement and frequency in my news feed is the antics of those cheaters from Foxboro Stadium, Massachusetts. This version of the deflated balls story absolutely cracks me up.

My favorite part of the headline is "again." And, I know, when you saw ‘deflated balls’ in the body of the stories you were thinking Barry Bonds working out with A-Rod; not necessarily wrong either, I might add, just not the (d)roids we were looking for (this time).

Say it with me: It’s a sporting event. And it’s a sporting event that just about no one else on earth plays, except the Canadians and they have a wider field, more guys on it and only three downs to do stuff. 

Of course, we’ve come a considerable distance from the University of Arizona Symphonic Marching Band, Grambling State University Marching Band, Al Hirt, and the Arcadia (California) High School Drill Team and Flag Girls as the half-time entertainment at the first one.

I do remember a couple of years after that me and my brother, Kelly, sitting awkwardly in a family room many miles from our own home for Super Bowl III as our hosts, the brothers Vincent and Arthur, beat one another senseless while Joe Willie Namath and the Jets of New York easily defeated, Tom Matte and the Baltimore Colts. For purposes of this reminiscence, those two were the half-time entertainment.

The stridency and anger in all of this confounds me. I cannot begin to imagine how fevered you have to be to believe within the context of the world in which we live, that this is news. Maybe if one of the Patriots had punched a football while in an elevator and knocked it out cold, we could have skipped all of this off-week trauma and drama. Almost worked for Ray.

You would need to snort the lines on the Jersey Turnpike, from 6A to 14B (never did learn what became of exit 5. Lost in the flood maybe?) to believe any of this Deflate-gate mattered.

We have 2000 plus people slaughtered in Nigeria by relentless lunatics in the service of a God who most surely has turned His face from them by now and no one blinks once. much less twice.

Then just past the clean-up of deflated footballs brouhaha in aisle three you have others having a meltdown because they've only got the short charger cord for their cell phone. Funny the way it is....
-bill kenny

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Puts the Standing in that Ovation

Long ago, in another galaxy far away, I worked in rock and roll. Not in the snort my own body weight in cocaine during the road trip rock and roll. More the play the records from people who made the music and, if lucky get to converse with them sometimes aspect of the business. It’s a living.

Jello Biafra and the Dead Kennedys were a band of that era about whom I had heard and read a great deal without ever knowing very much about them or their music. Now, in an era of relentless visuals that may (or may not) have anything to do with the music, auto-tune (which has nothing to do with music at all) twerking and anacondas of all kinds, much of their body of work seems quaint and semi-sepia toned in terms of whom we are now.

That’s why I love a story like this. And if you’re an old dog like me in search of celebrating new tricks, be advised the concert was in the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, California, not LA’s The Roxy or the once and future Capitol Theater in Passaic, New Jersey (where I took Genevieve F (before she broke my heart) to enjoy Fleetwood Mac and no one in the band looked like Mick Fleetwood or John McVie, because they weren’t there; the manager owned the name and packaged some musicians to cash in on the band).

From Holiday in Cambodia to folks horizontal bopping during the instrumental break. And thank goodness for Roadkill TV News to rush this story to our video screens (I love the exclusive visual you offered me). My favorite part was catching a glimpse in the extreme wide shot of a coming attraction on the marquee for Tower of Power. Talk about putting the hard into so very hard to go.

-bill kenny

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Every Accomplishment Starts with a Decision to Try

In reading an account last week about the closing of Chacer’s on Franklin Street, I wondered (maybe feared is a better word) if I were hearing the tolling of John Donne’s bell across the city, and where we might be when the tolling ended. And then I remembered a favorite pick-me-up line from  Stephen Kaggwa, whose a Ugandan restaurateur now living in Minneapolis, Minnesota (pause) whose insight encourages me more often than I’m comfortable counting.

Try and fail,” he once offered, “but don’t fail to try.”  
I’m considered a very trying person by many whose opinions are highly regarded (mostly by themselves) and Kaggwa’s larger point is spot-on, you cannot win if you do not play. We often fear failure so much that we’d rather not even make an attempt (the difference between a try and a triumph is usually the amount of ‘umph’) thus dooming ourselves before we start.
Here in Norwich (and I suspect this is true across the country and around the world) there’s often an undercurrent of dis and mistrust between the governed and the government based on a near-genius inability to openly and honestly speak to and with one another. We don’t listen to understand but, rather, to reply and rebut.

We can build bridges or we can build walls, often from the same materials-it depends on our intentions and perspectives. One of the better tools we have is the City’s municipal website. It’s both an example and a product of an effort by people from across the community who had little more in common than a desire to make a good idea a better tool in redesigning Norwich’s world-wide calling card.

I enjoyed being a part of that group-even if I suspect some of them had a little less enjoyment because of me, but the city’s website is more than a gearhead’s delight. Its utility, from answering questions about paying property taxes through maintaining calendars on both municipal meetings and community events, is complemented by its capability (used to be potential, but now its energy is being realized) to be a platform for conversations with and between all of us, elected and the electorate.

I’ve been reading Mayor Hinchey’s blog (disclaimer: I didn’t vote for her, but as was the case with her predecessor (and those before him as well), I want her to succeed because when she does, so, too, do we all). It’s a great way to get unfiltered information, directly from the source at City Hall (so to speak) and is a terrific use of technology and connectivity to create a more informed public.

Her blog is still new and I won’t tell you she’s found the keys to the universe in the engine of old boxcar, but she has made an excellent start in her telling of The Story of Us. Her patience and perspective challenges me to remember that when you don’t know where you’ll be in five years, you really don’t know where you are now.         

-bill kenny

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

And we do have a Harbor....

One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is I've always believed somewhat tongue in cheek. I've read it but have never heard how he delivered it so I'm guessing a little bit, but I think it's close. And the quote is: "We may have all come on different ships, but we're all in the same boat now." Not bad stand-up for a guy with a serious day-job.

His 86th birthday would have been last Thursday, the 15th, and we observed it yesterday here in Norwich, and across the country, on the Monday following his birthday which gave people like me a three day weekend. I used it to find things like this.

The treatment of General Powell has saddened and angered me for the last couple of decades as I worked for him when he was a wee slip of a three star general back in Frankfurt am Main. I would have voted for him had he chosen to seek elected office, but he didn't and I think we're all the poorer for it and that loss has nothing to do with the color of his skin and everything to do with the content of his character.

That said, we paused in these parts yesterday to reflect on what is yet to be done in this country on so many challenges we face. As Dr. King, I'm sure, would tell us, there is no color, gender, religious faith specific solution to what ails us. And whatever we come up with for the cure, it will require all of us but that's more than fair because that's who it will heal, too.
-bill kenny

Monday, January 19, 2015

Celebrating a Drummer

If we here in the Land of the Red, White and Blue Round Doorknobs can't make it a three day holiday, we may not observe it at all. But observe this one we shall even though the actual 86th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a day last week. Dr. King never saw his 40th birthday.

James Earl Ray made sure Dr. King would never have to blow out all those candles by murdering him nearly forty-seven years ago. You've read (I hope) in history class in school about the deaths of American icons JFK, Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, I was alive for all three and lack the words to tell you what we were like as a nation before their passings but I assure you we are better people because they lived.

I was a high school sophomore, a pimply too-loud white preppie kid, wandering around Washington D. C. on a school trip my father organized through the middle of  Resurrection City, just weeks after Dr. King's assassination. 

I was stunned at the scale and scope of the settlement, the audacity and the eloquence of the vision that propelled and compelled it into existence and the pervasiveness of the poverty and despair that made it inevitable and necessary. Reinventing American society so that the reasons why it had to be would became history and aren't part of our present or future, is a part of the legacy of Dr. King.

Today across the country there are ceremonies and commemorations. Ours here in Norwich at City Hall starts at a quarter of two this afternoon with some speeching, a little preaching (I suspect, having attended this every year for quite some time) as well as singing followed by a march to a local church for warming words on what is usually a typical New England winter's day and then we'll all go home, back to the lives we lead and the people we are.

I hope this year, unlike any other before it, across this country, we can seize a moment from whatever we do today to celebrate the dream of Dr. King, make it our own and keep it on our hearts. And then, beginning tomorrow for all the days that remain, use it as a fulcrum, as he did, to change the world. Again.
-bill kenny        

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sometimes Life Imitates Art

Walking to the grocery yesterday as the temperatures flirted with the twenty degree mark, eventually breaking it but too late to help on my hike, I passed a gas station that has long since closed off its service bays and now sells a wide variety of items in that space to help it make up for the shorter mark-up of profit in gasoline so as to stay in business.

Almost all of the products sold seem to me in some way to have to do with cell phone accessories as if the first place I'd go to buy such an item is a gas station and also for tobacco products.

The place had placards for dozens of brands I've never heard of at prices north of six dollars a pack (I found myself wondering "American dollars?') with some form of L & M cigarettes at $7.29 (Yipes!). Reminded me of some old thoughts I've had on both product lines.

I stopped smoking cigarettes at 1330 on Monday, 30 September 1996. I was smoking about three packs a day at that time and stopped cold turkey. Was I scared of cancer? Yeah, I guess. Especially when someone I knew would be diagnosed with it-but you never light the cigarette that gets you, I suppose or believed. Still miss it. First I'd switched to 'light' cigarettes, a champion misnomer if ever there were one. And then I stopped altogether.

And then I got sick in a half dozen other ways and now I spend a lot of time listening to people who aren't doctors tell me how much worse all of my health problems would be if I still smoked. Not only would I appreciate it they'd shut up I wish they'd take up smoking and get cancer. Just kidding (no, actually I'm not).

I mention this because light cigarettes are a lot like hands-free cell phones while driving, at least in my eyes and ears. Holding the phone in my hand while driving isn't what makes me a lot less safe though I concede I am unsafe, and if you don't think this applies to you, your cell phone and your driving, stop reading now and go do something else because it does. 

Listening to that other person on the phone-whether I'm holding it against my ear, marveling at how it comes out of my blue tooth (I remembered the name!) or reading it as a sky-writer circles back to dot the eyes or put the umlaut over the U in F-nevermind the word, is what distracts all of us. 

We can think anything we'd like but we're wrong because we can't do anything else but drive when we drive or we'll fail at everything we are trying to do. And because you didn't have an accident today doesn't mean you won't the next time.

There are too many distractions that get into the vehicle with us these days, if we'd all pledge to turn the phones off before we put the keys in the ignition, we'd all be a lot safer. From each other. Our vehicles are marvelous triumphs of technology, but brainless. That's why they need us to use the one we have. 

There are too many ways for our lives to end but by our own hand, or hands-free, shouldn't be one of them. Ever.
-bill kenny

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Doomsday Dance

At the risk of provoking your slightly raised eyebrow of derision as a response, permit me to wonder and worry are the acid-crazies finally in charge of the roller-coaster around here? I’m looking at Boko Haram, ISIL, Vlad the Intruder in Ukraine, to name just three still warm headline generators.

Two weeks ago, who knew the difference between Charlie Hebdo and Calvin Klein? And now, the carnage and catastrophe are part of a “that’s old news” cycle as one gruesome sensation chases the next across our web news feeds and 24/7/365 TV news circuses stations and sales of ADD medication skyrocket around the globe.

Have you ever noticed there are NO broadcast ‘all news’ operations-it’s strictly cable everywhere. Yeah, odd, innit? You don’t seriously think that’s by accident, do you? Think again.

Nothing like having your prejudices confirmed if not celebrated to create a core constituency to whom advertisers can pitch products between inoculations of flat-earth, gunmen on the grassy knoll Cajun pabulum masquerading as news the 'lame-stream media' won’t cover. Crafted by folks who never got to have lunch at the cool kids' table, these flawed creatures are happiest when sowing discord and cable news of all stripes does that to beat the band.

On a cold New England Saturday, let me offer a quote from a native son, Robert Frost, first said long before the World Wide Weird had even been thought of but is frighteningly spot-on for this moment in what’s left of our history. “Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.”

-bill kenny

Friday, January 16, 2015


Perfection is the enemy of good enough and I smile when we become captives of the game we have been running on ourselves. So often we are prisoners of our own routines and are unable, or unwilling, to get out of our own way. And almost nothing speaks to this better than what I call The Edifice Complex in government (local, state or federal; it makes no difference).

Given the opportunity to go bombastic, and do it on someone else’s dime, we create monumental buildings with cathedral ceilings you could play basketball in, when plain vanilla would get the job done at a far more reasonable cost. But economical is never as impressive as eye-watering ostentation.

Almost a generation ago, in a town that shall remain nameless here in Connecticut, as a response to the “bump” in property taxes bringing a nuclear power plant on line created for the community, the police department went out and bought Swedish-made patrol cars (I’m sure this guy approved). Of course, in the here and now, as the taxable property has continued to depreciate and the tax revenues from it continue to decline, they might be better off driving a Fjord (I never tire of that joke).

Even something as humble as floor coverings can be opportunities to excel and sometimes also for excess. And sometimes, even more than what we bargained for as happened in the Land of the Hanging Chad (but not Jeremy), Florida. In light of theological concerns by some about the construction of snowmen (admittedly NOT an issue in the Land of Anita Bryant and fresh-squeezed OJ, liquid not incarcerated), I’m not sure we’re better off not creating situations where people stand on the Lord. Unless you’re a dyslexic or an atheist.

-bill kenny

Thursday, January 15, 2015

All Politics Is Local

It was the Sage of Baltimore, H. L. Mencken (sorry, Buck) who once offered “(d)emocracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” There’s not a single part of that observation that doesn’t make me smile, especially while reading recent news dispatches.

I’m not sure what the good people of Richmond did to deserve Joseph Morrissey (does being the capital of the Confederate States of America still count?) but if he never wins a(nother) race, Joe is their horse (sorry Bentley). I guess apathy and ignorance are their own reward.

Please. Put aside your revulsion and look past, if only for a moment, that Joey has the same moral intelligence of something you might scrape off your shoe with a stick. This is truly an American Love Affair

It’s almost heart-warming, especially in light of the generation gap in voter participation to read about the success of a 57 year-old man in getting through to someone forty years his junior.

And not just through, if you follow both the preposition and the proposition. Her unborn child will be so fortunate to have a father and a grand-father in the same person. Perhaps they can take turns using the walker as both may need it at about the same time.

Somewhere Anthony Weiner is sitting on a stoop of a double-wide in a trailer park in upstate New York, looking at pictures on his cell phone and muttering ‘I coulda been a contenduh.’ Buck up, Tony-take a page out of Joe’s book. And speaking of books, Vladimir Nabokov may soon enjoy a resurgence of popularity, at least in one zip code.

-bill kenny 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Half a Decade

It was five years ago (plus/minus) ten days, these attempted musings started to show up on the editorial page of the Bulletin. For those unhappy at that development, I will offer no apologies but suggest, rather, you consider blaming a Literacy Volunteer.

I spent some quality time over the weekend, after helping Jack London build a fire, in looking back at some of the first words I ever offered in this space. 
When I read them now, I'm disappointed because I don't sound more prescient, or taller though the mirror suggests I'm far greyer and a lot less hopeful. 

I'm not the wide-eyed optimist that I once was and have ruefully come to accept that being a pessimist means you can only be surprised but never disappointed. Mainly I was struck by how little everything and everyone seems to have changed, though I'm hoping your mileage may vary. Read for yourself:

"Is this the year we start to finally change Norwich back into a place where our adult children will want to come home to, or from which all who have the wherewithal to leave, will flee with a haste that borders on the unseemly as a retreat becomes a rout? 

"Pardon an outsider’s observation, and after all these years I concede that for many, I’m still NFH (Not From Here), but we don’t know how we got here, and, more importantly are unwilling to work together to get to where we want to go.

"We need to stop waiting for Hartford, which is politically and financially exhausted, or for Washington, D. C., which is too far away, even more broken and has too many of its own problems, to ‘save’ us. 

"And we need to finally wake up from the recurring dream we have of finding that one big development project that will transform the three rivers upon which we were founded into flowing honey and the falling raindrops (and snowflakes) into gumdrops.

"The only help we can count on, and should, is the assistance we give to ourselves. If we're looking for a helping hand, look no further than the end of each of your arms-that's two and that's a start. If you join hands with those of your neighbor, we have an initiative--and if three of us work together, it’s a movement. 

"Every person, every building, every block and every neighborhood, one community. We've seen the hard way what working to benefit only ourselves has gotten us--a society of sharpened elbows and people not afraid to use them. Many have stopped trying and so we have to pick them up as we take ourselves along to where we need to get to in order to rebuild and rediscover the spark in the dark that made us who we are.

"I've always suspected had the Native Americans who greeted the Pilgrims realized their guests were not going to assimilate or be interested in learning very many of their hosts' customs, that first Thanksgiving meal might have been more 'to go' than John Alden and Miles Standish could stand. 

"But what were their choices, and what are ours? It's not ever easy, and it's not instant, but we're not in this life, or nation, or circumstance, alone. And we can do this-because, when you get through with all the platitudes, because we have no choice. You're burning daylight, sitting here reading this, my friend. The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on (January 27, 2010)."
-bill kenny

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I Remember the Days of the Old School Yard

Having been a father (or at least the dad’s stunt-double) for our two children who are themselves now grown-ups, I can say with certainty that I do not envy anyone growing up today. When I look back at the “good old days” I’ll concede I have to look back a lot farther than most other people and when I do, the contrast in lives and lifestyles is stunning.

I can recall a conversation with our son, Patrick, when he was six or seven (maybe) on his desire to have a color TV in his room and my excuse masquerading as a reason included telling him how at his age my family only had one TV and it was black and white. His response: you must have been very bad to be so punished. He refused to believe all there had been was black and white television. I thought about telling him how the dinosaurs ate the color sets but decided not to do that.

And here we are in 2015 and grade school children carry tablets in their backpacks. Heck, I still don’t have one (tablet, not backpack) but if I did, I would be a waste since I have no idea how to use it. To this day, Patrick and his sister, Michelle, are my tech support since Daddy-o has clue zero about much of these newfangled techno gizmos.

I’m not a Luddite; I’m just technologically-impaired. I just nearly learned how to operate the DVR on the living room TV and whatever the setting on the toaster is, that’s where it stays since I don’t know how to change it without creating briquettes.

Within that context, I warily watch a brave new world of life in these United States with its occasional short-circuit (I guess) as I don’t know how else to characterize this headline and story, “Western NY 4th graders planned to kill teacher with hand sanitizer because she was 'mean'.”

Yipes! That noise you heard was my mind softly boggling in my head (lots of room, by the way). My teacher back then was Mrs. McGary and in a classroom with close to sixty or so of us, she was the only adult we saw all day, for every subject. 

Everyone had a school-uniform; boys wore white shirts with blue ties (with "SPS" in white letters in the center) and the black pants that came with our First Holy Communion suits while girls had tartan jumpers, knee-high navy blue socks and black-and-white saddle shoes.

We didn’t have paint with pastel colors on the walls of the classroom and no one ever asked us how did that made us feel. I think our room was actually in the basement so the windows were those half-casement jobbers that opened outward but into a pre-formed mesh cage that kept small animals from using them as an entrance into the building.

Our understanding of science was how to make finger-print ink and plaster of Paris volcanoes and our class science fairs had at least a half dozen of each as exhibits. Fast-forward half a century and our grandchildren are wrestling with the chemical properties in hand sanitizer that can be used to poison a teacher….

All I can say is not everything new is better and “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Somewhere, just now, David Caruso’s ears perked up.      

-bill kenny

Monday, January 12, 2015

Love Is the Answer (Your Mileage May Vary)

...assuming the question is 'what can you fall into that doesn't stick to your face?' 
As part of the generation that insisted 'All You Need is Love' might I be permitted a do-over on that concept as I make my way to and through my Autumnal Years? 

Events here at home in the last few months, and the carnage and killing in France last week have shaken me slightly in my beliefs, though not my values. Not sure anymore that the world can be seen in absolutes like 'love' and 'hate' or black and white. And I'm not sure that was ever the case, despite a generation's fervent conviction to the contrary. Maybe that's why Tolstoy called it "War and Peace". 

I think 62 plus years of running around on the ant hill, thirty-seven of it as a spouse and thirty-two of that as a Dad has taught me that what I don't know may be of more importance than what I thought I learned. While my generation sang the Beatles' anthem, we were actually living the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" ('just as every cop's a criminal, and all the criminals are saints....') 

Sometimes the difference between essential and existential is nonsense
-bill kenny

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Lone Gunman Has Company

The farther out in space you travel, the more alike back here on Terra Firma we all look. That might be the most compelling argument to ever be made for space travel as we continue down here on the Big, Blue Marble to find differences within distinctions to match every political belief and social more.

I came across a story by the Christian Science Monitor (not known, at least to me, to be an intemperate or radical revisionist soapbox) whose headline simultaneously enticed and saddened me, “Why Many Americans Hold False Beliefs about WMDs in Iraq and Obama’s birthplace.”                    

Well, boy howdy. And I thought those who still murmur about how NASA staged the ‘moon landing’ in a New Mexico desert were sad. I didn't realize that in light of what we seem to be willing to believe, they might actually be among the more sane and sober of the conspiracists.

And talk about a no-solace situation, the article concludes, “…in a world of turmoil and uncertainty, it’s comforting to have reasons and answers, even if they’re wrong.” Yeah, we may often be wrong, but we’re always loud. 
Cheer up, I was told, things could always get worse. So I did, and they did too.

-bill kenny

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Tales from the Wild Kingdom

If we who walk this planet today are the sum total of everyone who has gone before us and if the death of but one person diminishes us all in some way as John Donne suggested it does, I confess to drawing a blank on what I’m supposed to conclude from the so-called life (so far) of Thomas Gilbert, Jr.

Recognizing the presumption of innocence, it’s hard to not notice the assumption of arrogance and entitlement in a sad and sickening story of patricide. When children are small, they throw themselves on the floor in an emotional outburst about an allowance. 

I’m not sure where in the pantheon of abject self-absorption to place action such as premeditated murder, if that is indeed what this proves to be, by someone who is chronologically an adult, albeit emotionally and ethically stunted though I hope our justice system will sort it out right quick.

The rich, suggested F. Scott Fitzgerald, are not like you and me. To which I can only reply with thank goodness. I’m starting to understand why some animals eat their young. 

-bill kenny

Friday, January 9, 2015

“And I Hope We Passed the Audition”

I have no illusions that I am in any portion of the audience demographic who follows or purchases the music of Kanye West (I did NOT use the word “enjoy” deliberately), but I did find myself amused at the on-line hullabaloo which supposedly accompanied the recent release of his collaboration with Sir Paul McCartney.

My ears are nearly sixty-three years old-I wanted you to have that data point when I then tell you that I like “Only One.” Suspect neither Kanye nor I should be too pleased with that turn of events. That Sir Paul also lost his mother at an early age may have been part of the bridge of shared experiences that brought the two men together, I don’t pretend to know.

Do my sentiments in acknowledging the music of Kanye West remind me of a terribly tortured moment too many years with my father as he struggled to tell me he liked “She’s Leaving Home” from Sir Paul’s ‘earlier’ band, The Beatles? Yeah, it sure does. I open my mouth and my father’s words come out. So this is what growing old is? Well-played, God, well-played.

Except, of course, like everything around the world-wide water cooler, it’s never eaten as hot as it’s served, or listened to as loudly as it’s recorded. Because of who I am and how old I’ve become, I think I’m more rather than less grateful that this is what happens. Welcome to ‘Murika.

We cannot tell news from noise but if we’d been paying attention, at least we could smile knowingly as if we were in on the joke. Neil Postman, in “Amusing Ourselves to Death” published thirty years ago, forecast the American Intellectual Landscape in which we currently live (avoiding Newton Minnow’s well-known “Wasteland” characterization, but not happy at what he saw on the horizon).

He argued, suggests an article I am smitten with that those of us who struggled all those years ago with summer reading lists that had George Orwell’s “1984” were better served had we read Aldous Huxley. Let me steal an insight: “What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.

Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”

Somewhere I hear the strains of Yellow Submarine, almost the perfect vessel to navigate such a sea. Meanwhile, long story even longer, it turns out we do know who Sir Paul McCartney is, and Kanye West as well. These are truly days of miracles and wonder.

-bill kenny

Thursday, January 8, 2015

To Hold a Pen Is to Be at War

"Let us remember:  One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world," Malala Yousafzai.

There is no true religion founded on intolerance - and no true religion that does not value the sanctity of human life," Mohamed ElBaradei.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Cogito Ergo Doleo

I don't make New Year's resolutions because I don't believe myself when I'm making them and pay little attention to them after they're spoken. Instead, I strive (not always successfully) to identify habits I do have that produce positive outcomes and/or make me feel better and perform them more often.

As I may have mentioned in this space a few thousand times, I do a great deal of walking. The topography of Norwich is such that on a decent weekend day (as a very recent for instance) I can get in a pretty good workout, clear my head and give my family and neighbors a respite by being somewhere else in the zip code.

This past Saturday morning was the type of day, weather-wise, that while you knew you were in New England in the winter, as long as you kept moving briskly, it was very close to pleasant, which is a nice way to start your year.

As I criss-crossed the Consolidated City District and hiked up and then down Church Street to City Hall and towards downtown, I passed a parked car with a bumper sticker reading "Cogito ergo doleo" (I think, therefore I am depressed).

I'm wondering if it was intended as a warning or perhaps a challenge. I'm more a "Selume proferre" (towards the light) kind of guy myself but I fear the light is starting to dim when it comes to our downtown.

As I walked from the viaduct bridge back and forth on Main Street all the way to the Carroll Building, I passed eighteen people on the sidewalk at ten in the morning. In a city with an estimated population of just over 40,000, that few people doesn't even rate one "seriously?" on the incredulity scale.

Perhaps there were mitigating circumstances. Maybe everyone was still at home binge watching that Netflix marathon of Life Is Worth Living but I'm thinking not so much (and I didn't see a lot of empty pizza boxes at the curb). Perhaps they were shy and didn't wish to be seen in public. In that case, mission accomplished.

They certainly weren't stopping or shopping anywhere I walked, making any discussion on creating incentives for retail development that much more difficult when the customer part of  "a downtown business" is completely absent.
I thought of my imaginary street sign, "Welcome to Moot Point. Population: Us."

All we do is talk about revitalizing downtown, none of us feel any responsibility for helping make it happen, that is somebody else's job. If you don't think so, just ask us and we'll tell you. We may not know exactly who should do it, but it ain't us. And (good news!) based on my Saturday walk, our plan is working great!

By all means, avoid shopping local. It'll teach those who've opened small businesses and who live hand to mouth, struggling to keep them going that we are all talk and no action. And later as we drive to other spaces and places to recreate and retail, we can ask one another why we're surrounded by so many destination locations and yet we, ourselves, never seem to be one.

"Sine labore nihil" (nothing without work).
-bill kenny

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Words I Know

When I was a wee slip of a lad today was a rather big deal, especially for Catholic school kids. Not as in 'yippee! we have it off!' or 'ohh, it's a Holy Day of Obligation' but because some of the nuns called it The Feast of the Magi while others, and I think technically this was the correct term, called it The Epiphany and we were made to understand in many ways, it was the beginning of the tradition of gift-giving for Christmas.

I love the song in all of the hundred million variations that exist, and, to this day, the chorus actually sends a chill up my spine (I'm padding my resume just in case there's ever an opening on the College of Cardinals, be it in Saint Louis or elsewhere) "We three kings of Orient are, Bearing gifts we traverse afar. Field and fountain, moor and mountain. Following yonder star." 

In much the same way as we pledged allegiance to the flag many years before any of us ever understood the meaning of 'allegiance' none of us knew what 'traverse' meant or what a 'moor' was, but we made up in volume what we lacked in knowledge (a habit many of us have carried into our adult lives, unfortunately). 

My kitchen calendar from years ago told me that tomorrow is/was Ashura, which I had to look up as I had never heard of or about it (I saved you some time with the hyperlink; you're welcome) and has nothing about the Epiphany which the nuns explained was a Greek word and meant 'manifestation' (as in, they told us, the infant, Jesus, was revealed as the Son of God to Caspar, Balthazar and Melchior- these three symbolized all Gentiles (the other than God's Chosen People, the Jews)). 

When you're in third grade, some of this nuance is wasted. You worry if the cartoon ghost is named for one of the kings and how many r's and h's are supposed to be in myrrh (and no matter how often and how different you spell it, it never looks right, even when it is) and why anyone would give that as a gift to a baby. I can remember the nuns having difficulty explaining the Feast of the Circumcision and happily embracing its new name, Feast of the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas or Feast of the Holy Family

I suspect one or more of these same nuns would have had difficulties explaining to us technically, how Joseph was sort of Jesus' step-dad and exactly what a Virgin birth meant. Good for them that we were years away from those questions--not the case anymore (and this is progress, in what way do you suppose?). 

What I recall from religion class was how the Three Kings followed "The Star" and encountered King Herod who was a puppet of the Roman occupation and paranoid about his own future and the last thing he needed was any whisperings about a Messiah. Supposedly he told the Magi to let him know where and when they found the Saviour so that, he, too, could worship Him (but an angel appeared to the kings in a dream and told them to find another way home that skipped Herod). 

The nuns told us about the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which didn't improve Herod's stock at all, and impressed me most deeply because it meant even then (though I was a little fuzzy on when, exactly, 'even then' was) how dangerous that part of the world was (and has remained to this day). 

Many people in many cultures around the world celebrate today, and if you are one of those-I wish you well. Someplace, in my childhood is a young believer who thought today was a fitting cap on the Christmas season and read the short story of Jim and Delia and always loved the line, "Forget the hashed metaphor" without ever once understanding it. Hoping you do likewise.
-bill kenny

Monday, January 5, 2015

Sad though Not Unexpected

If we've met and you've spent more than a moment in my company you know why I'm not a big sports fan. I can injure myself while being part of a standing ovation. I lack any athletic ability at all-and have been known to goober up being the dummy hand in bridge.

All of that said, while I appreciate that we have 24/7 sports television channels, we needn't have had them for my sake but it's nice they exist for those so inclined.

One of the folks I always enjoyed watching work on the Excellence in Sports Programming Network, which is what ESPN started out being called, in Bristol, Connecticut was Stuart Scott, who passed away over this weekend at the age of forty-nine.

John Donne's bell rings all the time-sometimes it's a lot easier to hear than at others and I would hasten to point put that probably like you I had never met Stuart Scott so while knew of him, I didn't know him.

But through words such as these, I've formed a picture of the man, not just the talking head on the sports channel. It was great to have had the opportunity to share some of the journey here on the big. blue marble and I'll keep his family in my thoughts even as they hold him forever in their hearts.
-bill kenny

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Like Riding a Bike

A year in Greenland will put you off snow for the rest of your life (it'll also put you off Eskimo Pie but let's leave that for another time) so I see myself as God's punchline for opting to spend this chapter of my life where we have all four seasons, to include the one that comes with snow.

If you were a child in New England who got a sled for Christmas it looked for awhile yesterday afternoon like maybe you were gonna get to take it out of the house and put it to use. Here in Norwich, I always took our children to the hill in front of Buckingham School where whole neighborhoods gathered even as the snow fell.

Thank goodness there was a stout fence at the foot of the hill alongside the third base side of the ball field to keep sledders from ending up as hood ornaments for speeding cars on Washington Street.

You can still hike over to the Norwich golf-course and enjoy some terrific \ sledding, in season, as flocks of children of all ages take to the "slopes." I'm not sure you can sled without a caddy, but we'll probably have a chance later this winter to find out.

We shouldn't this go around as the weather folks are predicting warm and even warmer as the two flavors of temperatures for today which will make yesterday's flurries disappear in a hurry.

Though it was nice to realize snow-shovelling is a little like riding a bike in that once you've learned you never forget how to do it. Try as you might. I shouldn't complain really-those are pine trees and not palm trees down the street.
-bill kenny

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Buckminster in 2016

I realize we're only three days into 2015 but for those who make their living from the body politic of the United States (sort of like constitutional fleas) it's more like it's already three days into 2015.

According to NBC we have a baker's dozen (and some crumbs to spare) to keep an eye on in the race for the White House in 2016. Except, here's the thing and it's not personal, the list makes me throw up in my own mouth.

A parade of the gray-suited grafters, a choice of cancer or polio-Mick and Keef nailed it and they're not even US citizens. No, that's not what I want to howl at the moon about so early in this year, not at all.

We've become a nation of ADD but such an ailment adds nothing to who we are and more importantly to whom we can be. Somehow we've managed to lose sight of "e pluribus unum" (from many, one) as close to a slogan as any nation has any right to have and have opted, it seems to me sometimes for 'Quia fried poma cum terra, vis?" (do you want fries with that?)

I hope my right of center friends (assuming I have any; an assumption that also can be made for those on the other side of the aisle as well) will forgive me when I opine that I have little to no interest in what your party does in either the House of Representatives or the Senate as long as whatever it is they believe is in the best interests of the greatest number of us who live here.

Instead of working on a 140 character tweet or an eye-catching bumper sticker for Hillary, Rand, Jeb, Chris or Marco (or Polo) or any of the other folks who called shotgun in the electoral college clown car, how about we spend at least the rest of this year with some words from a long time ago?

These are some memorable words from a thoroughly flawed man who did his best even when his best wasn't good enough, "My country is the great American Republic. My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right."

As we've discovered for the last fifty years or so, our civil discourse has continued to coarsen and we've stopped listening to one another in order to discuss the issues of the day only waiting until it's our turn to talk, we have a long way yet to go and a finite number of days to get ourselves gone.

Worries about 2016 are distractions from the task at hand, getting through this day in 2015 and the next one and the one after that. I agree with the shriekers on both sides of the political spectrum, there is much "wrong" in this nation but not so much that it cannot all be repaired in a day by what's right.
More sentences and paragraphs, and far fewer words. Starting now.
-bill kenny