Monday, November 30, 2015

A Different Reason for the Season

I am VERY happy our two children are out of the buy-me-that-toy-for-Christmas phase; I'm sure they both wish their father were as well, but you can't have everything and in my house that's a lesson you can't learn often enough.

Almost two decades ago, I traipsed from store to store in search of Furby, an object whose appeal eluded me (and still does). Our little girl wanted one and that was good enough for me. I think she ended up with no more than two in the course of her growing up/my growing old though my recollection is that there were battalions of different models of these little dust bunnies available. I was always proud I resisted the temptation to train it to speak in incredibly rude sentences, but only just.

She, and we, collected beanie babies with a little more vigor than we pursued Furby, but their saving grace (when was the last time that phrase was used in connection with them?) was that you collected them all year long, they weren't specifically tied to this time of year (I keep visualizing the Gift of the Magi at the original Nativity where each of the Wise Men gives the Baby Jesus a different Beanie Baby. Just guaranteed myself another window seat on the bus to Hades.)

I know I've gotten old when I recoil in dismay reading about this year's hot toys though I needn't bother buying any of them for anyone. Star Wars toys we can pretend to be buying for nieces and nephews but never leave the original packaging and have a secret stash in the hall closet? Your secret is safe with me, my friend. I'm still working on who buys the Pie Face Game, from Hasbro. The 'why' I'm hoping is offered separately. 

I'm not sure how anyone can walk past one of the bell-ringers with the kettle this season and NOT put something in for those in need if they intend to give some of the stuff on the "hot toys" list to someone they know. And perhaps, in the spirit of the season, I should take it a little easier on these toys, and the people who give them, except we both know before the holiday season is over we'll read or watch reports of adult shoppers coming to physical violence over a store's last shipment of something and someone, somewhere will set up a cottage industry (if it hasn't happened already) on-line to sell all the accessories every child of all ages will ever want or need. 

And if the past is the prelude to the future, in a couple of years, as part of local collections to help the hungry and indigent, all of our now older children will be donating their now unwanted hot toys of Christmases Past to those in need of a roof or a warm coat. I promise when that happens to NOT point out that no one wanted a Jedi Master Lightsaber and we'll all pretend this will constitute a happy ending, at least until the next trend.
-bill kenny

Sunday, November 29, 2015

First Sunday after Black Friday

Somewhere on the way to here, I lost my way. Not as in shuffled off the beaten path and got lost, but defiantly chose to not do as those who came before me had chosen for generations. Too stiff-necked to this day to acknowledge my failings and weaknesses, I'm often in doubt but never in error. At least in my own mind.

Today marks the beginning of a season of preparation; for the devout it is for the coming of the Saviour. I've never been quite sure what it is people like me are doing or supposed to do. I miss the comfort of the ritual and the sense of shared belonging. I fill up my hollow days with noise to distract me from hearing the approaching roar. 

I've never been clear if I am to look to the future with anticipation or fear. 
I do understand I'll find out soon enough and sooner than planned.
-bill kenny

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Seasonal Seasonings.....

We're a little less than a month from Christmas. If you don't observe Christmas please substitute the phrase "December 25th." See? That worked great didn't it?

We here in Norwich (Connecticut) have already started by lighting up our City Hall (not with fire, but holiday lights) yesterday evening.

Last night was the start and we continue today, and it will matter not what the weather looks like. Starting at one this afternoon at Chelsea Parade and wending its way down Broadway, then Broad Street and yet more and finally onto Franklin Street, concluding just around Franklin Square it's the 247th Annual Winterfest Parade.

Okay, it isn't really that many, but I've been watching a to-remain-unnamed Presidential aspirant lie every time he opens his mouth with no repercussions so I figured why not. I've been following his example for almost six centuries now. There I go again!

The pictures you see are from last year's parade (my cell phone camera cannot get images of events before they happen, sigh) but you get the idea: lots of feet in the street, people on floats waving, marching bands, local civic groups and Santa Claus to cap the parade.

There are all kinds of arts and crafts in downtown afterwards so if you're in the area consider yourself invited and wander around to check out the merchants who are doing their part for Small Business Saturday and I'd have to assume for your holiday season as well.

Maybe your town has its own celebrations going on. In that case, by all means I'll understand if you take a raincheck on ours but if you're looking to get into the mood, we have a whole cadre of volunteers who work for months on this and they do a great job, so the more the merrier and that includes you.
-bill kenny

Friday, November 27, 2015

There Are Black Friday Blogs?

I was going to get up before I went to bed and write something, just in case you thought I might do that in honor of today being Black Friday in US retail, and then I remembered that my Mom raised crazy children but not stupid ones. 

I was impressed watching all the TV commercials yesterday and reading the papers with all the inserts (the newspapers actually looked like the Sunday newspapers in terms of thickness, didn't they?) at the early hours so many stores had for today. And the rewards so many offered for sleep deprivation.

But what if (just supposin’) your city hall opened at 4 A.M. and gave you a 25% discount on overdue/past-due property taxes; would you line up the way you stood out in front of Best Buy/Big Box Joint this morning to get one of the twenty five-dimensional TVs they had for under $500? 

Or, what if the state DMV office offered a driver's license or a vehicle registration for half-off for the first one hundred folks through the door when they opened at five? Heck with that, what if DMV just let you pick the photo for the license instead of keeping it a secret until after it's been laminated? My photo ALWAYS looks like a raccoon having a seizure because of the black rings under my eyes and how their camera is designed to always catch me in mid-blink. 

Finally, what if the IRS gave you a 10% discount on your earned income credit for stopping in between 4 and 6 AM. Would the line in front of their building look like that hungry mob circling the Target store trying to score a Wii console or some of those size 44 Triple-E jump boots?

You ponder all of that. I'm heading out to church because if I get there before 5 AM they have a twofer on plenary indulgences and I need all the indulging I can get. Retail therapy and redemption, in paper or plastic.
-bill kenny

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Putting the Stuff in Stuffing

Happy Thanksgiving. 

With the weather growing colder in Southeast New England as fall descends into winter, I'm seeing fewer signs stapled to utility poles for the ever popular weekend-consuming event: the tag sale, or yard sale, sometimes called a garage sale. I have another name for these, but my mom has asked me to NOT use it in case children are reading this (a child, is, technically, writing this, hers).

At certain times of year around here these are really popular, and are in your area, too, I suspect. I've never really gotten the attraction of rummaging through someone else's stuff, deciding if I like/need or want it, figuring out a price or haggling with the owner over the number on the tag and then taking the purchase home and making it part of my life. I have a very particular and defined sense of personal space. I don't like you in mine and I don't want to be in yours unless we're all stampeding for an exit during a fire drill. 

I don't think I've been to a yard sale, assuming I don't count the thought-it-was-a-stationary-bike bicycle I bought from Gayle and Eric across the street; but it wasn't a stationary bike, at all, as it turns out. Gayle had already left it at the curb for the trash pick-up and I gave her five dollars for it and then almost killed myself falling down the basement stairs when I put it away. 

It was at that moment, sprawled half under it and half over it, that I realized it wasn't what I thought it was and that I should have left well enough alone (and thereafter did). My whole involvement with the bike now consists of shouting "watch out for the bike!" to people heading down the indoor basement stairs. 

We have a house, probably like yours, filled with things we no longer use/need. Pieces of yourself and who you were but no longer are. Junk we didn't even realize we still have. I have shelves in the basement filled with items we got for the kids, way back when, some we bought for them when we all lived in Germany and we haven't done that for almost a quarter century. I'll never part with any of it. It takes a lot to get into my family and even more for me to let go. 

Each item has a story or a memory, even the stuff of which I have no recollection, maybe especially that stuff. George Carlin's observation never rang truer and while we may laugh at it, for the comedic directness and accuracy of its acerbic assertions, we always divide the world into ours and yours, and guess what we think of yours? Pass that leftover turkey sammich, willya?
-bill kenny

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Too Many Blessings

I wrote this five years and a day ago. It was my hope then as it is my intention now to put a holiday we celebrate on the ‘fourth Thursday of every November’ into a large enough context that all we can (and should) see are our similarities because (maybe just me?) we seem to spend much of the rest of the year arguing over our differences and why those differences are so much more important than all the things we share. 

On a day that both commemorates and celebrates the importance of sharing what you have with those who do not I hope our individual reasons to be thankful are nearly innumerable but more importantly they don’t get lost among the cornbread stuffing and the secret recipe sweet-potato pie.

They were very poor and had come a long way with very little money and less hope. The lives they led had been so desperate that arriving uninvited in a land that had no use for them seemed attractive.

The first months were terribly hard. The immigrants didn't know the customs, didn't understand the language, had little grasp of the nature of the place they had come to live in and even less desire to learn of it.

Arriving in the middle of winter, totally unprepared for the season's savagery by their experiences in their own country, nearly half were dead by the Spring.

Their hosts had difficulties with the settlers. Their customs, their language, their religion were all so different from what they had known-it was hard to see the point of attempted community.

On more than occasion, as it had proven, befriending the new ones had been unwise as more of their sort just kept showing up and crowding out those who had lived in the area for so many decades.

The emigres were in a precarious predicament. It had taken almost all of their savings to make the trip to what they hoped would be a fresh start. They believed, or wanted to, that if they worked hard and did well, one day they could send for family and friends to join them in their brave adventure. But every day was a challenge and more often than not, often without victory. They were isolated, decimated and left to their own devices. 

It took extraordinary hospitality and courageous kindness by one of the long-time residents of the established community to extend a helping hand and organize support so that as the following fall approached the new people had reasons to believe.

How fortunate there was nothing like a Secure Border Initiative
Fortunate for us, that is.

We, the direct and indirect descendants of those first arrivals nearly five hundred years ago, will tomorrow celebrate Thanksgiving, possible only because Samoset ignored the arguments and fears of so many of his fellow Abenaki and welcomed the Pilgrims to the New World, establishing even before we were a nation, a tradition and legacy of welcoming all to our shores.Happy Thanksgiving.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thrills and Pills

This is a loud and blaring tough week on the tube what with the barrage of non-stop ThanksChristPassKwanzaa TV commercials importuning us to conspicuously consume (Guess who got a Word-a-Day calendar as an early present? Yep, no clue.). 

There’s a pretty good chance one of us is already in the queue for an opportunity to purchase something we don’t need but desperately want (perhaps a full-size cardboard catamaran, or a genuine Gucci shoe tree) for a low, low price on Black (Thursday evening) Friday. It will have to be you, as I still do plenty of stupid stuff, but not that stupid stuff.  

But humor me. What part of a day do you watch advertiser-supported broadcast TV? Perhaps the morning news, or the chit-chat afternoon talk shows, maybe the late night stuff? Count the number of commercials you see for prescription medications (not the headache tablets or cold and flu meds). I’m talking full-on, get ye to a doctor to have a script to take to your apothecary meds.

I predict your rough count, based on the number of them I see hamster hopping on the treadmill by the dawn’s early light and on the network evening news will be somewhere around 6.2 metric boxcars worth. To be honest, once you start watching for them, you’ll be slightly numbed by their volume.

Why are they on at all? I’m not a doctor and you’re probably not either, so why are we pre-selling stuff to people who lack the direct access to the product? Do any of us ever say to one of our doctors, ‘what do you think about we try HappiFuzziBuzz, that new anti-depression drug available in the family friendly twelve-pack?’ Yeah, and then afterwards you bill your physician for a consulting fee. Not.

Raised on sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, I have to tell you I never thought the long green would be in the middle, and yet in terms of ‘brought to you by’ advertising, we’re talking billions.  I was a kid when the Marlboro Man rode off my TV screen and into the sunset (though I still remember the “Winston Tastes Good” jingle and ‘the disadvantages to Benson & Hedges’ (never mentioning the most obvious one, cancer) and the TV wizards screamed that their world would end as those rivers of advertising dollars dried up.

But here we are, a lifetime later, and we have  more TV than you can shake a Zippo or a pillbox at so I’m thinking we can probably survive quite handsomely (in my case, real progress in the looks department) without erectile dysfunction and/or mood elevation prescription meds  and return the airwaves to the likes of Ron Popeil and George Foreman. One to sell us fishing tackle and the knives to filet the catch with the other helping us cook up that freshly-caught carp just right
-bill kenny

Monday, November 23, 2015

Postcard from the Past

I wrote this a very long time ago, so the numbers are off (I mention that for all the math majors following along at home), but not the sentiments. 

Somewhere this week, I lost track of almost all the days in it. I've had this happen before and have put it down to 'getting old' but that doesn't actually make sense since I've lived through all the days, I just didn't seem to get any of 'em on me. 

My wife and I have two children who are, in every sense of the word, adults themselves, though I have a vision problem that precludes my successfully seeing them with my heart as anything other than as they once were.

I have memories of my son, Patrick being no more than two or so when I'd pick him up to put him in his backseat car seat while cheering 'nur Patrick!' to which he shouted in return, 'nur Daddy!' It was always a pep club rally in the garage behind Ahornstrasse 67, Offenbach am Main. Zwei Deppen aber glucklich.

Michelle, our daughter, a few years younger than her brother, would balance herself in the crook of my right arm as I held her up so she could see herself as a tiny toddler in our bathroom mirror as we (her brother and me) serenaded her with 'How Much is that Baby in the Mirror' to the tune of some other song whose name I've forgotten, as she peered solemnly into the mirror and then slowly smiled when she realized the baby she was seeing was herself. I smiled because the song was one of the ways I obliquely introduced English as a language into my children's life. 

And now, part and parcel of all the days I don't recall, our family which went from two to three to four and then down to three and back to two again will be whole if not forever then for a meal this Thursday and a moment (as guests of my son's Somebody Special parents).

Some of us will enjoy stovetop stuffing while at least one of us (hint: me) absolutely loathes the stuff while only two of us will eat sweet potatoes, assuming we even have them this year, and one of us won't have any jellied cranberry sauce. 

My wife, whose country and culture have no formal Thanksgiving holiday is the architect for every reason I have to be thankful for everyday, even the days that have rushed by, unheeding and unmindful. The moments that I thought I'd remember have so often, too often, been joined by all of those now lost to me forever. 

And though I've always tried to move as quickly through life as it has through me, I've not been as successful as I could and should have been. And yet, somehow, the days I'll remember all my life are those of miracles and wonder and all of those seem to involve, and revolve around, those I love.
-bill kenny

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Family Snapshot

Today fifty-two years ago President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, Texas.

I was eleven and a half years old and in 5th grade at St Peter School in New Brunswick, NJ (in Sister Thomas Anne's class in the basement of what was then a still brand-new building). We were in our seats in the classroom when an announcement came over the PA from Sister Immaculata, our principal, who then lead us in a decade of the rosary.

She spoke to us through the cloth-covered speaker perched high up on the walls at the corner of the room near the end of our school day and in the blink of an eye, for me and all of us in class and for our  entire generation and all who followed us, the carefree innocence of childhood was over. 

As children, we couldn't fathom what would cause anyone to want to kill anyone else (the violence on our streets and in our homes now was very different back then, and how we gathered and processed information was different as well). 

And as we headed home to houses with mothers, fathers and siblings gathered around the radio, there were only three TV stations in those days and 'live' broadcasting was a cumbersome operation, radio was faster and newspapers rushed out 'special editions', I think we all had a dim awareness that something had changed, but we didn't know what and we didn’t know how much.

A half-century later, many of us still don't.
-bill kenny

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Circus, Circus

I switched up my going to the gym schedule this week as a result of a cold I caught, and think I overcame last week (set up by way too much oh bright earliness and let’s go wander around in damp gym togs instead of changing) so that I sleep in until about half past three and take/make a pause in the course of the day to hit the treadmill (after laboring in the hamster wheel for a living).

There’s a LOT more people in the place now than when I went on the early shift, which sort of weirds me out a little bit as I don’t go to get pumped (guy with what appears to be tattoos on top of his tattoos), or to see how much of me fits in a children’s size spandex leotard forcing others to look at the ceiling when speaking to you (I mean you ginger-haired young woman who spends most of her time chatting up the guy working the overnight desk and tossing her hair every twenty seconds).

My aim is to do what I can to stay alive. I have enough health issues that any and all help that doesn’t kill me is welcome. In another life, little was more boring than a treadmill, but peripheral artery disease resulting in one artery stent and an angioplasty in an artery in the other leg and two heart stents later I find the device endlessly intriguing. 

But during the daytime part of the day, the big screen TVs in the gym have abandoned news (to include Fox, which I usually don’t include as a news channel) for UFC (I was surprised to learn the F doesn’t stand for what I thought it stood for) which is the Ultimate Fighting Championship (nope, not linking to it; it’s disgusting and you can find that trash by yourself).

The struggles in the ring I’ve caught glimpses of bear no resemblance to anything purporting to do with fair play or humane conduct. I find myself wondering if I could get a second career as a UFC ref since it doesn’t seem there are any rules of any kind about any aspect of what is a street brawl with lots of spectators.

Yesterday, perhaps as a change of pace, the TV was sharing  a clip of two ‘competitors’ hurling full-sized  watermelons from a helicopter at some kind of a target with a bulls-eye and various point circles, with cutaways to some geezer (probably the event organizer) pretending this was something that needed a backstory and an explanation.

Yeah, two cretins in shorts with mono-syllabic vocabularies yelling over the noise of the rotors at one another with words mostly rhyming with Mother Tucker (whoever she was) and ‘dude.’ On the next screen over, ironically, was Fox News with scenes (still) of the Paris terrorist attacks and studio stuffed shirts pontificating on how violent a society we have now become with no idea how this has come to pass.

Edward Gibbons, were he to return and start on the treadmill next to me, would probably be feeling pretty good about himself these days, or pretty bad
-bill kenny

Friday, November 20, 2015

Ceilings Are Floors

In George Orwell’s 1984, historical revisionism makes sure that whatever is has always been and that whatever is to come aligns with what once was.  It was a very uncomfortable read for me as a school child in the late Sixties, so I can only imagine the reaction when it was published in 1949. That it no longer seems the least bit disquieting now probably has less to do with tastes in reading and more to do with how much life has come to imitate art.

The convergence of various technologies that a kid who devoured Tom Swift books could only dream of is now an everyday occurrence. Every aspect of the way I earn my daily wage is shaped by tools that did not exist when I first started working in my present position (that I worked at all while in my present job is possibly a shock to many of my colleagues, but only the mean-spirited ones). 

Pebbles thrown into the pond of our civilization by those talents and geniuses who created the last twenty-five years and who will shape the next one hundred created waves whose impact on distant shores we may never fully appreciate. 

That we use some of these gifts to send one another short movies of babies laughing or still imagery of unhappy cats may be a source of chagrin for some but, assuming we also pursue cures for diseases and mitigation of disasters, is not necessarily anything more than another roadside attraction on the human highway. 

But we’ve yet to use the tools we’ve invented to improve our collective lot. On the far side of the Great Bandwidth Divide, we’ve allowed the perpetuation of haves and have nots, what Dr. Seuss so brilliantly skewered as Star-Bellied and Plain-Bellied Sneetches, to redraw our maps and politics in ways that not even Orwell at his most dystopian could have seen even in a fever dream. 

We’ve had the technology for more than my lifetime to eradicate huge numbers of people without ever seeing (or knowing) them-but now, despite the threads that could (and should) join us together we can hate whole bodies of humanity without ever getting close to personalization, or risking a moment of rational consideration. 

We have ten second ephemeral epiphanies where truthiness and truth can be used interchangeably with little risk of harm since our present situation is a construct of our own conceit and nothing more than wires and electrical impulses, ones and zeroes, subject to reconstruction and repurposing until its original function is lost in the tangled jungle of the very devices we once intended to lead and liberate us.
-bill kenny

Thursday, November 19, 2015

When the World Was Round

I do a superlative impersonation of Sean Connery as James Bond, especially if you’ve never heard him speak. Even more so if you’ve never heard me speak. My point: sweeping generalizations make for great voice bytes and headlines, but are a pretty crappy way to lead your life, or a nation when responding to a crisis. 

Making it more difficult is when generalizations flatten context and lose perspective so that you end with “since all ducks are birds, all birds must be ducks.” The Only-Kinda-Sorta light is burning brightly on that one, but feel free to follow the yellow brick road if you are so inclined, and let me know how pigeon tastes with orange sauce (your equation, your lunch entrĂ©e; fair is fair).

I stole this from a FB friend, Sally, who found it I have no idea where.

In the interests of equal time I would point out in my version, I would add Kanye West, probably right alongside The Nuge (put ‘em in a sack and hit it with a bat and you’d get the right one), which helps me prove my point about generalizing about generalizations.

To some extent, Pope Francis and I are identical (when viewed from space admittedly) because we’re both Catholics (stay with me on this one, okay), but we are definitely two very different human beings and any conclusions you reach about “Catholics” based on me would be 180 degrees out after knowing His Holiness. Your mileage (and chances for beatification) would definitely vary. 

I don’t take it personally (not sure how the Pope would feel about it, but he seems like a good sort) but what I do take personally is someone hijacking a moment of silence to offer a loud-mouth drive-by generalization. Here’s something I never thought I’d type: Bravo, Aaron Rodgers. 

Here’s the deal. If this doesn’t bother you, please stop dropping by here because it should.

Here’s my takeaway on days when whackjobs rule the earth, offered by someone with more experience than the rest of us put together on timing your life with the monsters when the monsters won’t go away.

-bill kenny

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Grateful for Each Hand We Hold

Grocery stores are jammed with hunters, not those with flannel jackets but crammed shopping carts, seeking the best prices and the freshest assortment of meats and vegetable preparing for Thanksgiving. 

I’m not sure what Italian chestnuts are or just how many varieties of ‘Roastables’ are considered essential for the holiday meal, but time is tight. A week from tomorrow is Thanksgiving and there are still many serious decisions to make. Cranberries: jellied or berries?

While I'm struggling with what is truly a trivial concern, I'm somehow not seeing those around me who would trade my troubles for theirs in less time than it takes to read this sentence.

You and I pass by at least a half-dozen collection points every day where donations for those whom we call 'the less fortunate' are being assembled. One of the supermarkets I frequent allows me to purchase a package of noodles or a canned good to be included as part of a larger collection for these same ‘less fortunate.’ Sometimes when I do that, it makes me feel good but all I’m doing is bailing out the ocean with a teaspoon.

And let’s be clear: people who need our help are not some kind of an abstraction we should refer to as ‘less fortunate.’ They are human beings, flesh and blood. They are our neighbors and in some instances family and friends.

There are over 35,500 people just in New London County, here in wealthy Connecticut who struggle with food insecurity every day of the month. Food insecurity is a fancy term for ‘don’t know where our next meal is coming from.’ And while I can write the term I cannot actually grasp its meaning.

Have you ever missed a meal? How about a whole day of meals none of that by your choice but because you have no choice? Speaking of choices, food or shoes? Coats or heat? Heat or food? Every day choices for the invisible indigent, almost as many people as we have in Norwich.

This time of year and growing larger with every passing year, agencies and organizations that work with those we choose to nor see are nearly overwhelmed by requests for help.

Ask the St. Vincent de Paul Place about how many (more) hot meals they're preparing for the holidays and how many new food pantry customers they have. We can all name a church or a school organizing a winter coat drive and this is the time of the year I suspect the Connecticut Food Bank receives the largest number of donations, which is all well and good assuming hunger is a holiday thing, except it's not. It is a daily occurrence for everyday people.

This Thanksgiving when you're with friends and family enjoying the food and festivities, after the feasting please go online to perhaps the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut or find another agency someplace that is doing good and donate so they can do better.

How much should we give? Until it helps.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Perils and Promises of The Second Coming

People were murdered for religion last week in Beirut, Lebanon, and no one anywhere else in the world batted an eye. Seriously. If I hadn't just told you it happened, would you have known? I'm not a great guy for passing it along, so cool your jets. I didn't pay any attention either when it happened. Why? Because "it" has been happening "there" for so long. When cowardice murdered innocents in Paris, we all noticed.

Not sure when I became one of the 'reasonable people in the world.' And I have no idea how many of us there are, but it's damn sure not anywhere near enough. We have members of nearly every organized religion (and a few disorganized ones as well) scheming and dreaming to putting an end to everyone (else) who doesn't pray like they do. Don't have a particularly well-developed sense of the theologic but can't help but think that your God, however you see him-Hairy Thunderer or Cosmic Muffin-would be less than pleased with that approach.

"The darkness drops again but now I know 
That twenty centuries of stony sleep 
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, 
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, 
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

I'm getting old when I wonder if this is the brave new world Al Gore envisioned when he invented the Internet back when the last Ice Age was ending. We've engineered ourselves practically out of existence and, as it happens, no one and nothing else on the planet will miss us when the last of us has gone. 
And some days, I worry that day may be coming sooner than we thought.

"I went walking in the wasted city, 
Started thinking about entropy. 
Smelled the wind from the ruined river, 
Went home to watch TV. 
And it's worse when I try to remember, 
When I think about then and now .
I'd rather see it on the news at eleven,
Sit back, and watch it run straight down."
-bill kenny

Monday, November 16, 2015

To Help Recover from that Red Cup Ruckus

In the future suggested/warned Andy Warhol, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes. Don’t know about you, but if I bought a watch for every humanoid that surfaced in my newsfeed with little to no reason to be there in the first place, I would do nothing all day, every day, but buy watches and give them to the Fifteen Minutes Crowd. 

I did streamline my life a bit earlier this week when I added to my Google Chrome browser an extension that promised to eliminate “news” about the Kardashians from my roaring river of information. So far it has worked like a charm. I think it exists only for Android which suits me fine with a Samsung Note 4; I’m sure there’s something in the worlds for the iPhone, but since I don’t have one, iDon’t Care (didja see what I did there?)

In the same spirit as three dozen bazillion stories every day, the “why is this news?” news feed, I did read that David Hasselhoff has changed his name, though not to anything I, in many moments of weakness, have been guilty of calling him.

“I’m into bigger and better things,” he says. From your lips to God’s ear, Dave, unless you change your first name as well (and as luck would have it, of course, I have suggestions but your Mom might cry when she hears them).

Nothing personal but folks like David H, Pamela A, Paris H, Nicole R, and swarms of others are really panda bears in my estimation. And by that I mean, nondescript creatures with no discernible talents or abilities (or specific intelligence) that we have decided to “like.” Panda bears eat bamboo, which does very little for them nutritionally so they live life-long (and it’s not all that long, either) pretty much paw to mouth.

But we find them adorable. They appear to me to have no other purpose aside from eating bamboo and inciting frenzied zoo-goers around the world to create inane suggestions for names when, on the rare occasion they have sex in captivity, they produce offspring.

Not much of a life, and like I said, reminiscent of the Fifteen Minutes crowd. It’s good to read at least one of them is headed towards bigger and better, as long as it’s not red swim trunks and beach runs. Tick, tick, tick.
-bill kenny

Sunday, November 15, 2015

It Would Seem that Love Is the Answer

...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 through my Autumnal Years?  I have an excuse, and no it’s not the one I offered my Mom who always wanted a doctor. And now has she one and/or more, though not quite in the way she originally hoped proving again sometimes the only thing more dangerous than unanswered prayers are answered ones.

My actual point (hard to see because I’m wearing a hat) is I’m not sure anymore that the world (or the one in which we find ourselves at this moment) can be seen in absolutes like 'love' and 'hate' or black and white. Moreover, 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 63 plus years of running around on the ant hill, thirty-eight of it as a spouse and thirty-three of that as a Dad has taught me what I don't know may be of more importance than what I thought I had learned.

While my generation sang a Beatles' anthem, we were actually living the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" ('just as every cop is a criminal and all the criminals are saints....').

I’ve worn glasses for the last two decades or so in a vain effort to see other people’s point of view, but I have the sinking suspicion that was both foolish and pointless. Sometimes the difference between essential and existential is both nonexistent and utter nonsense.
-bill kenny

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Cowards' Grand Gesture

The news headlines flashed starting late in our afternoon and have continued non-stop. Carnage and chaos, violence and mindless murder in one of the great cities of the world carried out by those who have nothing to live which makes it easy for them to die especially if they can kill you as well.

Cowards who kill women and children and anyone who opposes them.

Cowards who kill anyone whose religious beliefs do not match their own.

Cowards who kill everyone until all who remain are the dead and dying.

Murdered in the name of a perversion of a religious belief next to none of its own adherents can comprehend.

For a God who has turned His face from His followers in horror at the atrocities they continue to commit in His name.

Cowards, all.

-bill kenny

Friday, November 13, 2015

Rushing to Judgment

Sometimes there are no words (like a car whose brakes can stop on a mime) and other times there is a torrent of words but no meaning. Such as this

Obviously, I’m (somehow) mistaken in thinking the most important part of being a parent is how much love you have in your heart for the child you are raising as your own. Very much appreciate the power of Belief (capital B deliberately) but if you wish to live in a theocracy (or more on point, behave in such a way that others are made to feel like they live in one), there are direct flights to Iran from nearly every major US Airport. Happy landings and Bon Voyage.

Not sure when hateful narrow-mindedness became a family value unless you meant the Manson family, but it sure looks like we’re there now. This is about as wrong as we can get in this country and I’m not sure we can ever climb our way back up this slippery slope if this decision is allowed to stand
-bill kenny

Thursday, November 12, 2015

20/20 Hindsight on Veterans Day

This is a blast from my past. 
I always forget how true the saying is, 'no one man steps into the same river twice because both he and the river have changed.' Considering how often I walk around in damp swimming trunks, you'd think I'd have caught on by now. And yet, here we are in a moisture-challenged environment. Seems like old times.

I will concede this item is more than appropriate as we bathe in the afterglow of the Veterans Day "Holiday" (that particular concept I suspect brought to us by the thousands of Army-Navy stores across the country with over- priced, cheaply made knock-offs of clunky cumbersome stuff you had when in the service but had forgotten you hated having to produce during locker inspections and duffle bag showdowns).

"Steadfast Jazz"-sounds like one of those music programming services Frank Magid and Associates might have come up with back in the day. And the reference to The Cold War is softly nostalgic without the warmth of reminiscence. Of course, recent history causes me to wonder how can we miss the Cold War when it never went away. Yes, Vlad, I'm looking at you. Often through a rifle sight.

For just about half a century, the armies of ignorance stood armed and ready all across Europe alert to the first sign of trouble so that the really big war could start and amazingly, despite frailties and fallacies on both sides, we managed to NOT blow everything up.

I assume the Warsaw Pact had names for their readiness exercises though I always understood us to have an entire department that created the names NATO used. While I was there we had Constant Guardian Roman Numeral Who Knows What which many of us tended to call Constant Turmoil.

(By the way, who, aside from the NFL's Super Bowl, still uses Roman numerals and how come they don't use them on the scoreboard during The Really Big Game, so that on screens all around the world people could read: Denver: XXVII, Seattle, XLIV, end of the IIIrd Quarter? Vatican City would eat that stuff up with a spoon and probably sponsor a novena for a field goal.)

 Yeah, those were the days. During the war games, excuse me readiness exercises, we were always the Blue forces and the bad guys were Orange (I think because making them Red would have caused an irony overload) and we knew all about them and they all about us. The term du jour was Mutually Assured Destruction, MAD, always said without a trace of a smile or a sense of irony.

We kept our eyes peeled around the Frankfurt PX for SMLM vehicles (Soviet Military Liaison Mission) whose troops were allowed to shop in the Exchange and we'd all watch them warily from a distance as they bought up 'blue jeans' (always more bitten off than actually enunciated) by the shopping cart full and ship them back to Mother Russia where they sold them at such a markup they could probably afford a stylish dacha on the Black Sea.

And then, peace broke out and the world as we knew it shifted and then shifted again. We now live in an asynchronous wartime environment, often fighting phantoms and apparitions, confronted by soulless savages with literally nothing to live for making them martyrs with something to die for, and wanting us to die for it, too.

A world without war, really a shared goal of anyone and everyone who has ever worn a uniform of any military anywhere in the world continues to remain an elusive  dream as we struggle against the omnipresent nightmare.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Looking for the Soul of America

Today is Veterans Day which began as Armistice Day, marking the end of "The War to End All Wars" also known as World War One, but obviously and sadly, failing to achieve its goal, hence the numerical suffix. 

For most of the thirty-five nations who fought in it, it lasted from 1914 to 1918; we here in the United States didn't become a combatant until 1917 but made up iin ferocity of engagement what we lacked in length of deployment.

The world one hundred years ago was very different than the one in which we live and so unlike today it's as if it were another universe. If we survive as a country for another one hundred years, I wonder what now will look like to those alive then.

There’s a relationship between Election Day, last Tuesday, and today. Without the latter, I’m not sure if we have the former. I’m always impressed by how similar veterans have in common despite differences of age, sex, ethnicity, religion or political beliefs. Their composition very much reflects the nation which their service in uniform protected. Sometimes we seem to forget that. 

There are many observances across the country today. And like ours in Norwich, Connecticut, this morning at eleven in the Village of Taftville's Memorial Park, and this afternoon at one at Chelsea Parade, the ceremonies are usually understated with little pomp and circumstance as is probably most befitting to celebrate a common and shared national experience.

As of 2014, with a population of 319.2 million people, there are 21.8 million veterans among us, and it takes every kind of people to make a world and to serve in uniform.

Today is NOT Memorial Day. We honor all those who served in our nation's armed forces, living and deceased. As we move farther away historically if not emotionally from the tragedy and subsequent events and the consequences of the 9/11 attacks, the size of our veteran population, the imperative and importance of taking care of all those who are wounded in body and/or in spirit, grows.

Veterans Day has truly become our Day of National Remembrance and Recognition of all the characteristics, embodied by those who serve as well as those who wait for those who serve, which allow us to remain among the freest nations in the world. 

I'm old now but I can remember the boy I was who listened to a Navy veteran of the War in the Pacific during World War Two, just elected President of the United States, who urged us to " any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

Service to others, like any other habit, becomes second-nature when performed often enough. Last week's elections across our country continue and extend conversations about what’s in need of repair from sea to shining sea. Today should remind us of all that is right with us, and with one another.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Novena for the Souls of the Easily Offended

I live in a cave I guess. If it weren’t for newsfeeds from various social media platforms, I might not yet know who shot JR (I only know because someone on Instagram took a picture of the food on the late Larry Hagman’s plate after the episode was filmed). I think I could’ve lived without knowing that it’s Starbucks’ turn to declare war on Christmas, and here I am lacking ammunition, reindeer and creamer.  

True confession time: I’m not a fan of Starbucks’ coffee (a little too bitter for me) but that’s why I love America-you can have your coffee any way you wish, or NOT have it at all. And Reverend Feuerstein (which is Firestone auf Deutsch for those curious and/or not (and was Fred's last name when The Flintstones were on German TV), I’m not all that convinced that candy canes were part of the original Nativity. But I will defer to your superior knowledge of the Operator’s Manual (New Testament edition, I’m sure). 

I’m running out of patience when encountering the unrelenting humorlessness of the easily offended. And no amount of chirpy chippiness and snarky remarks will change that. Focus, people, focus! Not sure how many homeless and sick we have from sea to shining sea, your Reverendship, but maybe you can harness some of your outrage (mis) directed at Starbucks and help those millions whose plight should truly spark the genuine article. I realize it does take more power to be a light than to be a horn, that’s probably why my nickname is ‘Buzz.’ You, too?

Instead, I get treated to Jesus and the Java Jive, the ideal name for any self-respecting Warring on Christmas Seattle grunge band. And guess what they’d be drinking backstage? Nope. Guess again. Please. 
-bill kenny