Saturday, April 30, 2016

Follow Me Boys, I'm Lost!

There was an article in the New York Times, I’ve saved that causes me to smile and grimace simultaneously. I didn't really need to save it (though I did) because I agreed with the headline, had seen the nearly-legendary visual that went with the story, and lived through countless, some might suggest innumerable, close, personal encounters of the worst kind.

When I was in the Air Force the article would have been what we called a BGO, blinding glimpse of the obvious. And its premise was/is that PowerPoint has lots of the former and none of the latter. I've endured my share of meetings where multi-colored pie charts demonstrate conclusively (and irrefutably) "11" is larger than "5". I've always loved the animations some folks use to make these very points--though it's hard to not adore the old stand-by, stacks of various heights so even a cretin can grasp three dollars is much many more than two. There's nothing like the classics.

Not so amusing has been the amount of my life that's been invested in supporting this kind of puppet show mummery-but since misery loves company I must also point out that few, if any, of the folks who requisition my help are ever very happy that I show up with a shoe box full of hand puppets while wearing finger puppets (it's hard to get those suckers on, too, after you've got a couple on already on one hand; and I don't have a lot of friends to help). I get invited to less and fewer of these soirees as time passes. Hey, I'm a traditionalist; what can I say?

And it's not fair, in a way to blame the device when it's we who made it, used it and now over use it, just like everything else we put our hands to. We will have access to more information, vastly more than we can process or retain, by the end of today than has existed throughout all of civilization. Actually, that's crap-I suspect something like that statement is probably true, but like the talking heads on TV, I don't have the time to research or confirm it as a truth, so I'll just proclaim it my truth and because you have no way to compare, measure or analyze, you'll buy in on it.

Then tomorrow, we can make that into a bullet on a slide and then turn that into a bumper sticker. Soon, we'll have a movement, with a website, a ball cap and maybe some endorsement deals. Between you and me, considering how full of it as a species we already are, it's amazing we don't have non-stop movements, but that's a discussion for another time. 

Next slide please, "Confusion through Consensus" Yes, it's just a random collection of various parts of speech. What you read it to mean is what your reality decides it is and welcome to it. Subject to your briefing, that concludes my questions.
-bill kenny

Friday, April 29, 2016

Galloping or Banquo

I try to avoid attending churches of faiths other than my own. I never know the customs and courtesies and end up, in an attempt to be light-hearted, perceived instead as a flippant asshat (which is more often correct than I care to admit). 

Since I’ve been faithfully faithless for decades, I guess that means I could go to anyone’s church but as you’ve probably already guessed, I wasn’t speaking about a house of worship.

Yesterday according to news feeds, streaming and screaming headlines of various descriptions as well as all the sports talk radio was the NFL Draft Day. For a nation that abandoned military conscription in 1973, our strange fascination with a combination in restraint of trade that feeds and fuels our appetite for destruction masquerading as a desire for sport amazes me. 

You have, I imagine, already guessed how I feel about American professional football (and you are 100% on the money, pun intended). Professional football players go from hero to zero faster than the speed of thought and the best lesson of all on Draft Day 2016 might be how quickly we turn on our icons

Hui and Pfui aren’t  the nicknames of Uncle Ludwig’s two other duckling nephews. It’s how so many of us respond (and how quickly) to the next big thing. For the football fanatic, Draft Day was a chance to have your favorite team discover the next Red Grange, or forge an uneasy truce with Banquo. In either event, success has no more than a ghost of a chance
-bill kenny

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Past Perfect Is Not Perfect

I gave up a long time ago believing anything I could type here, on a daily or otherwise basis would or could make a difference like that of gale force winds created halfway round the globe by the beating of a butterfly's wings. Nope, not even close. 

I realized all by myself long before anyone pointed out to me, I was attempting to empty an ocean of lunacy and bad behavior with a teaspoon.  As it turns out, the spoon is one of those cheapo plastic ones that tend to melt into nothingness as you use it to stir your coffee. And you thought that bold new flavor was the result of those fresh-roasted, fair-trade purchased and rainforest-grown coffee beans? Um, no, not exactly though you are cuter than a bug’s ears even though I have NO idea what that expression is supposed to mean.

So afraid are we, I fear, of what the future may bring, we remain rooted in our own past-music, arts, politics (take a look at what November is shaping up to be and tell me how it's better, not different) and entertainment. Somewhere Marty McFly has the hood open on the DeLorean and is working to regap the spark plugs and adjust the timing chain. When that happens, all I can conclude is nothing is different but everything’s changed
-bill kenny   

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Some Thoughts About the Night Before on the Day After

Just me or are you, too, feeling a little lonely this morning and maybe just a tad depressed in a post-primary sort of way here in The Nutmeg State. We certainly had ourselves a time around here in the world of Big Time Politics for the last week or so, didn’t we? Ayup.

But let’s face it, it was getting crowded with all these out-of-towners pleading for and seeking our votes on both sides of the aisle. Whether you were keen to Feel the Bern, wanted to Make America Great Again or were supporting someone else for our nation’s highest office, we had a nearly historical opportunity to get up close and personal in Presidential primaries that actually mattered.   

Because of the campaign calendar, magic mathematical numbers and an unrelenting pursuit of needed delegates for both parties’ nominations, our voices were heard yesterday loud and clear. I have little doubt that the total number of those of us who voted, based on the weeks and months of buzz, was ‘unheard of’ even though we could have been a lot/little more inclusive in whom we allowed to cast a ballot. That vox populi stuff gets to be a little problematic when you try thinking outside of the vox but voter registration and affiliation rules for 2016 seem more rooted for a time before technology and connectivity.

With passions stoked and so much at stake, it’s to be expected in the harsh light of the morning after, some of us are more than a little disappointed with yesterday’s results. You may consider absenting yourself from voting in November. Pardon my bluntness; we should grow up and shut up. I refuse (and so should you) to NOT use a right I defended while in uniform because I'm less than happy with the outcomes.

Because the entrees on the menu aren't to my liking doesn't mean I'm going on a hunger strike anytime soon right here in the Democracy Diner. Far too often unqualified or less than competent office seekers are elected to positions of leadership because caring, concerned and engaged citizens get discouraged and don’t vote.

We’ve heard it our whole lives and that’s because it’s been true for that long (and longer), this election matters. Explore every position and challenge every assumption made by every candidate. Consider everyone and everything. Then make up your mind.

We need all the help we can get and give to one another, especially now. We have drifted off-course for a long time and if we're ever going to reach the beach we'll all have to grab an oar and row like our lives depend on it. Put your back into it.

Let’s be clear: this is going to get a lot harder before it gets easier if it ever gets easier at all but TOO many have sacrificed everything they had so that you and I could make a choice and have our voices heard. 
Don’t you dare remain sullen or silent. Not now, or November.
-bill kenny  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Like McCartney Needs the Royalties

I’m gonna hear it all day long today so I may as well mark this anniversary of my completed orbit around the sun with my second most favorite version. I get to do something I have never before done on my birthday which is to cast a ballot for someone I hope becomes our next President, in this case in the Democratic Party primary here in Connecticut for Senator Bernie Sanders

Thank you most especially to Mom and to Dad without whom…..well, this space might be better purposed but not nearly so whimsically. And to my siblings who to wildly varying degrees put up with a lot of crap that total strangers would and should have clubbed me to death about.  Glad we couldn’t afford a club membership.

To Sigrid who makes every day worth every effort and to our children Patrick and Michelle, thank you for letting me be your Dad. To Blue Cross/Blue Shield whose coverage makes my previous thank you possible if at times it seemed almost improbable.

To Doctors CC, DG, JM, ON, AN, and SV, your efforts very likely have resulted in my reaching this milestone, especially you, Adam, thank you most profusely.

Maybe next year, Evan
That’s it, there’s nothing else to see here and no cake, so move along.

-bill kenny  

Monday, April 25, 2016

Lead On and Bleed On Me

Do you have trouble getting started on Mondays? Yeah, me too. It's a bit embarrassing as I have close to no life and have been known to come into work every day of the week (in recent years I've cut down to only coming in on Sundays over the weekend, mainly because the love of my life has projects for us on Saturdays) and yet Monday is such a challenge.

When I got up this morning, I had a fragment of a dream, or a thought while I was asleep (not sure if they're one and the same thing) about Pericardium but I don't know why or what its meaning might be. Heck, I wasn't actually sure how to correctly spell it until I looked it up and now I'm still not sure. 

I don't think it was on my leftover 'to do' list from last week since getting into med school and deciding to be a surgeon wasn't on the 'to do' list either. Maybe it's akin to Monty Python's Eric the Half-Bee, semi-carnally and all of that, Cyril. Or not. The dictionary defines a mondegreen as 'a word of phrase resulting from a misinterpretation of a word or phrase that has been heard.' Which is how we have remarks like "I led the pigeons to the flag' from "I pledge allegiance to the flag" or (one of my favorites, from rock and roll) "Excuse me while I kiss this guy" from Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze. Actually, that one makes Pericardium practically benign in comparison, even if I don't know what it's about. 

But back here on Monday, and trying to return to the routine (meaning that if you have a life whose rhythm is other than Monday through Friday you still have a Monday, just in a different place of the week), it sometimes is like trying to tap-dance with diver's boots on. Don't know about you, but I have a small army of distractions building up in one of my frontal lobes, even as I type this, that's causing me to try to look over my own shoulder to hurry this along. You need to read faster so we stay in sync, or something. 

I've been doing this 'get up/get dressed/get to work/get home' drill for way too long. When I was a kid, I thought being a grown up would be a lot more fun than it's proving to be. Staying up as late as you want, having soda with dinner, driving a car; all of that sounded pretty cool to me (actually, it still does) but all the other rigmarole that you go through to be allowed the chance to do that stuff! I just had cold cereal for breakfast and again, there was no toy in the box. Why do we adults permit this? If anyone needs a prize in their cereal every morning, it's grown-ups. What a gyp. 

No wonder so much of our everyday lives is goobered up. We create laws and requirements when we're cranky and tired, or when it's Monday and we make each other live by those rules every day of the week. What if Pericardium was supposed to be an accordion and I was supposed to sign up for lessons today? Jeepers, Wally! Where is that Cat Detection van when we really need it?
-bill kenny

Sunday, April 24, 2016

When the World Was Round

At what age did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up? I've grown old without ever growing up and have shuffled along for the most part occasionally standing up when someone said sit down. Like every kid growing up, I was convinced no one understood what I was going through and that I was the first person in the world to feel whatever particular emotion I was experiencing that day. We all were like that. 

We all lived in neighborhoods where everyone knew everyone else. Where every house had a mother and a father and sometimes they fought (real shouting matches, people screaming at each other, stuff thrown on the lawn and late at night lots of noise as car and house doors slammed) and no one thought twice about it because it always happened. 

You walked to the school with the same kids everyday until someone said you had to ride school buses and then you walked to the bus stop together and rode the same buses to the same school and rode them home in the afternoon, changed into your play clothes (remember Mom's tone when she lectured about the sneakers? 'You're not going outside with your school shoes on, young man and that's final.' And it was.) and went outside to play with the same kids in the neighborhood you knew your whole life. 

I grew up with Robert F. and when his dad's company moved him to a job in Ohio, the whole family packed up and moved and the day they left, the whole neighborhood, kids and adults, lined the street as the moving van pulled away and following it, the F's Ford Country Squire station wagon and we all waved very solemnly because we knew we'd never see them again in our whole life and we watched as the car went up Bloomfield Ave headed towards Easton, growing smaller by the moment until it was just a speck on the horizon and then it was gone. And on the way home, I stopped at Bobby A's house and we grabbed our mitts and headed to the ball field. 

Those were the days when companies relocated people to other offices and factories in other states, not their jobs in other countries. Moms stayed home and Dads got dressed for work. In some houses, the rich ones (we kids always thought), the dads drove themselves to the train station and got on the train to The City to work and in others, Mom got up with Dad so they could ride together in the car to the train station and Dad would put it in park and get out while Mom slid over to get behind the wheel and roll down the window and kiss him goodbye and he'd go into the train station and off on his adventure. Mom needed the car for grocery shopping and maybe to take all of us to the dentist after school and then later in the evening, she'd drive to the train station and pick up Dad and they'd come home and have warmed over leftovers while we got ready for bed. 

And now I've read where sociologists and historians and behaviorists shake their heads in wonder when they read those accounts of everyday life 'back then' and are amazed that we survived. And yet here we are, in this world we created in spite and despite our parents and ourselves. Many of us have children who attend schools that are so tough, they have their own morgues (sorry, Lenny; it was a great line then and a great line now) and when you look at the children of today, how often do you see yourself? 

When ours were small and came home in the afternoons and told me about their days, more and more there was less and less of it I could understand. My children and their friends worried about clothes, shoes, video games, cell phones (why does a fourth-grade child need a cell phone and what would Maslow say about such a need?) and their lives resembled mine at their age in almost no way. 

How many kids were in your fifth-grade class? I had fifty-two and learned enough to get to sixth grade (and a bit beyond) and today we have classroom ratios that sound like something out of Little House on the Prairie and standardized test scores that suggest McGuffy Readers could make a comeback. It's not, I think, that the kids are failing in school it's that we have developed a school process, an education factory, if you will, that fails our children. 

"Johnny Can't Read" and instead of enrolling him in a remedial class we have a school psychologist he visits every other day to be asked 'and how does that make you feel?'. I don't know what it's like to be fourteen years old in school these days, but I know I wouldn't want to be that age again on a bet. But what happened and how did it happen? What were we doing, as the parents of these empty children, that allowed the monsters that were under their beds to escape and to dominate their lives and color their dreams? And now what?
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Turns Out It Was Judgment Day

I’ve lived a large part of my life on the periphery of the rock and roll circus. Close enough to often see behind the greasepaint  and, in the words of Gertrude Stein, much more often to learn ‘there’s no there there.’ 

The sudden passing of Prince Rogers Nelson this Thursday past is yet another reminder that we each have a finite number of sunrises and sunsets. While we never know the exact number we know of its inevitable arrival and finality. 

Like you, I enjoyed a great deal of his art and though I never had the opportunity to see him perform (more accurately and truthfully phrased I never availed myself of opportunities to see him in concert), I wanted to share a moment that, at least for me, is emblematic of his genius at transcending and redefining styles, idioms and generations. For many, that moment was his driven performance in a driving rain storm at Super Bowl XLI but I respectfully disagree. 

In 2004, Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as were, among others, George Harrison for his other than Beatles career. The Beatles, as everyone on earth must or should know, were the Sixties and Seventies and Prince was the Eighties, Nineties and beyond. Timeless is as timeless does.

Prince ‘jammed’ with members of The Travelling Wilburys and with Harrison’s son, Dhani, on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Put on some headphones, crank up the volume and, at about three and a half minutes in, watch the joyful and joyous look on Dhani’s face as His Purpleness just shreds. 

I promise you when you look in a mirror afterwards, you’ll have the same look Dhani did.
-bill kenny     

Friday, April 22, 2016

Yet Another Dark Ride

I’m not sure what I was wound up about when I wrote what follows some years ago but I drove past the store I think I was talking about on the way home yesterday to make sure those buttards are still there and they are. Someday, we’ll get even though I concede I’m often a little odd.

I had to buy a new 16GB card for my cell phone yesterday. I wrote it like that because I'm not sure for what the GB is an abbreviation and don't want to look foolish when I get it wrong. Happy, now?

Anyway. At some point in my life, or in an earlier life (yes, I'm that good) I bought an 8GB card that cost me $109, sticker still on the blister pack that holds the little plastic box with the dock and the card (yeah, I'm that anal).

Yesterday, at a big box store that went from defining consumer electronics half a decade ago to holding on these days by the corporate skin of its teeth (what kind of a phrase is that anyway?) I paid $24.99.

Coming up with $85 to graduate with a degree in
 Moores' Law seems like a pretty good deal unless, after you wait, there really is more or Moore as the case may be.

I learned by looking at the receipt that I have 41 Reward Zone (RZ) points. I have no idea what one of them is worth, or concomitantly, what all of them are worth. I do admit the only thing larger than my ignorance is my total indifference. Do they expire or, through the miracle of compound interest, do they grow? Clue none.

I was invited at the bottom of the receipt to fill out an on-line survey, enticed by the promise of a chance to win a gift certificate of $500 or $5000 (I don't actually remember which) which, in light of my 41 RZ (lifetime, so far) points is more than enough to last me forever.

It was a New Age survey. At one point I was asked to pick a number, with one as the most disagree and 10 as the most agree, by rating the statement, "I'm proud to be a customer of Name of Store." In the same section was a companion question, same rating scheme to this warm kitten with rainbow farts coming out of its butt: "Name of Store has my best interests at heart."

I always prefer the 'if you were a cloud what kind would you be' questions because I know even less about that stuff than this. Something else I learned was, to spare both them and me embarrassment, I attempted to NOT answer some questions at all and to just move on to 'nothing to see here' section, but the survey will not allow that to happen. Ve haf vays auf magging u antszer.

Everyone who knows me will tell you I strive to be the soul of helpfulness. They will also note in passing I am often delusional, but helpfulness and the state of my soul is a constant topic. So in that spirit of delusional helpfulness, I waited for the end of the survey where, instead of filling in circles, I was able to use my words to construct what I'm sure will be seen as Soul of Helpfulness (even if somewhat anatomically challenging) Suggestions to make them a better store.

However, since I admit to being acquired taste who is sometimes cruelly misunderstood by billion dollar combinations in restraint of trade and sane business practices, if you find yourself 41 RZ points short on that big screen TV or holodeck projector, give me a ring and I'll get mine over to you since I suspect I didn't win the gift certificate or even a decent chance of ever getting in the front door again.

Mom used to say don't ask the question if you can't stand the answer. Fair enough.
I much prefer it as 'When you buy a ticket, you get the whole ride.' Keep your hands and arms inside the car at all times while the ride is in motion. Whether it's a 
Tunnel of Love or a Tunnel of Lunch might have to do with whether you bring a sandwich to a banquet. Napkins optional.
-bill kenny 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

(It Seemed) The Road Goes on Forever

So much for the Hippocratic Oath.  

Sad news can make for very strange stories when you have no skin in the game. 

So many questions without answers, so many what if’s and never to be’s.
-bill kenny  

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Seems Our New Normal Sucks

If you want something, says the old expression, you’ll always find a way and if you don’t you’ll always find an excuse. I’m pretty sure that expression was intended as a commentary on budgets of any and all kinds from federal all the way to family, with state and municipal in between. 

And if that is indeed the case, at just about all levels we are nearing the point where the road and the sky collide. What’s unclear to me (at least) is both what we intend to do about it, and when we might decide to begin in order to reach a new normal.

In the two dozen years I’ve lived here in Norwich, I doubt that there’s not been a time of municipal budget deliberations when very sincere conversations were begun about sharing services, consolidating and better coordinating across city departments with an eye on economies and savings, but then we tighten the budget belts and stumble and stagger onwards in pretty much the same way we always have. 

We’re doing it right now, as if you hadn’t noticed, and because we choose to not remember the past (which is why we tend to repeat it so often) we’ll do it again. And again, if we let ourselves get away with it. How about we choose this time to continue those oft-started ‘economize’ discussions until we reach conclusions, measure impacts and implement changes (if that is indeed what we decide to do).

In our own name and supposedly for our own benefit, we have constructed a form of government we may no longer be able to afford. I have no idea whose fault that is, but since searching for the guilty does nothing to get us closer to anything that resembles a solution might I suggest a better point might be ‘who cares?’

In a tick less than two hundred and forty years we evolved from a nation founded on (inalienable) rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to a government whose federal tax code started out in 1913 at 400 pages and a century later was almost 74,000.

I would not be surprised to learn a similar pattern of ballooning happened at both state and municipal levels, possibly triggered by an innocent question like ‘why don’t we do ….?’ or ‘what do you suppose happens if we…?”

We’ve inverted the pyramid of possibilities so that the base, which was intended to offer the most support to the rest of the structure, is now, somehow, at the top with a mass and weight that cannot continue to be borne successfully by the private citizen who was once at the pinnacle, the object of the entire effort, but is now trying to hold up the entire structure.

This is the year we face the reality that we cannot fix what we’ve always had and that it’s long past time to redefine what we want and what we are willing to pay for it. Stop talking and start doing.
-bill kenny    

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Big Cat Will Scratch You

Some days this stuff writes itself; sadly when that happens, it rarely rights itself. 
Submitted for your examination

Animal cruelty, actual or threatened, is certainly nothing to be encouraged or condoned, but this is one of these stories where I read it and go, ‘yeah, this is about right for a state whose hanging chads decided a Presidential election sixteen years ago.’ 

And there’s a Joe Friday quality about Officer Frederick Munn of (I'm assuming) the Gainesville police in speaking with Madeline Joan Kaye about her text messages demanding a ransom (or else) for a kitten she told the officer she doesn’t have, noting, “(d)efendant stated that the messages are representatives or examples of HUMOR.”

Law enforcement officials who put the word humor in ALL CAPS are perilously close to out of patience with whoever is using humor as a defense, especially since they have clearly demonstrated having no idea of what humor actually is. I admire his restraint. I think in that same spirit of HUMOR he should have read Ms. Kaye her Carmen Miranda rights.

Talk about big yuks! That would have been Yuuuuge! (Rhymes with Nuge!) 

Sort of like that slumbering feline on Trump’s noggin.
-bill kenny

Monday, April 18, 2016

Yet Another Back Page

I wrote this a year ago because there was nothing else to write that day but the words that followed. Another year on, no sense still makes no sense and people still have holes in their hearts where loved ones used to be. 

Today is Patriots' Day in Massachusetts and also the traditional running of the Boston Marathon. That order of precedence, if you will, was altered last year and for forever for circumstances officially recalled on the one year anniversary of a day exactly a year previously, we all recall.

Last year at the Marathon, Dzokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev those evil, ungrateful bastards whom we took in and who repaid that kindness with killing, broke hearts, destroyed lives and shattered our national illusion of insularity and insulation from the other horrors of the rest of the world and altered forever anyone's memories and imaginings of the Boston Marathon.

Both brothers will be long faded from memory before what they did is forgotten, but better remembered, and hopefully always remembered, is what they failed to do. Just ask Jeff Baumann, who gets stronger every day and whom I fervently hope gets angry and powerful enough some day to kick the ass of Dzorkhar all the way to Boston Harbor and then hold him under until the bubble stops.

I understand being an angry old man will get me nothing but an even more premature grave and I should take my cue from those who not only survived but triumphed over the tragedy of that day. Perhaps I shall, starting tomorrow.

I have the good fortune to have a friend, in the Facebook sense of the word, a Fenway denizen and Grammy-nominee who spent a lot of years on the Jersey Shore and has now followed the advice of Horace Greeley and gone west, Linda Chorney, who repurposed and molded her sorrow to create a beautiful celebration of a life taken terribly, suddenly and far too soon into a song perfectly suited for today and all those enjoying it.
-bill kenny

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Nearly Closing Time?

There was a bar, Olde Queens Tavern, steps from the Rutgers College campus in New Brunswick, New Jersey, that had been a hangout for decades when we wide-eyed wonders arrived in the fall of 1970 (when the drinking age in NJ was 21 and we were not) and we adopted it as our own. Maybe it's the fog of war or the haze of alcohol but I don't remember ever seeing people in there who didn't look like me when I went in there.

I think we drove the previous crowd out and, in turn, were succeeded by I don't know how many succeeding student-scholars (if wet tee-shirt contests and dropping shots of whiskey into beer glasses is on the syllabus). 

The folks who ran OldeQueens, and probably still do, were always very patient with us, and much more kind than they needed to be (in light of our age and the terrible fake IDs we all had) in moving us out when it was time to close up. Some of us, I think, probably didn't go home, or have homes to go to, but leave we did.

Long before Joseph Heller, Closing Time was a state of mind and an attitude check. I'm grateful I don't remember more of some of those nights and the state I was in and I am grateful beyond words for somehow not succumbing as a result of behavior that went well beyond 'youthful indiscretion' without harming myself or anyone else. 

The old man I've been sentenced to become never existed in the fevered fantasies of the young me and I am still amazed how I well I survived that person's excess as if that were, itself, a success. What I do recall makes me shudder and I strive to recall as little as possible for as long as possible.

I was thinking about that yesterday afternoon driving home to Norwich (that's an odd sentence fragment coming from me) from Meriden thinking about the ever faster approaching Presidential elections and worrying that we've now reached a point as a nation that all we ever do anymore is shout at each other. 

I've taken to watching news coverage of one of the people seeking office for whom I will never vote and looking at the people who show up on the news clips in support of him and his combover. A lot of them looked like one another and looked like me at the same time. I suspect we have more in common than what separates us, but judging by the signs and the shouts we're not going to make any serious effort to bridge whatever the gap between us may be anytime soon.

We used to joke as little kids that 'sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me' but that is, as we all know, an absurdity and a lie. Words can and do hurt, wounding in a way unlike any other weapon ever can, without leaving a visible scar. And after the echo of the last of the words has died, all we have to do is go on living with ourselves and the consequences of what we have done to one another. 

"When the old men do the fighting and the young men all look on. And the young girls eat their mothers' meat from tubes of plasticon. Beware of these, my gentle friends, and all the skins you breed. They have a tasty habit - they eat the hands that bleed."
-bill kenny

Saturday, April 16, 2016

This Weekend, We're All Patriots....

Yesterday would have normally been the near-universally detested "Tax Day" here in the Land of Unlimited Opportunities Where Seldom Is Heard a Discouraging Word and the Skies Are Not Cloudy All Day. Exactly how all of that gets reduced to "USA" always amazes me but I chalk it up to a triumph of marketing and branding, and a contempt for phonics bordering on malice.

Instead of enjoying the Spring-Weather-Has-Finally-Arrived, some of us are slaving over our taxes when in previous years, the deed would have already been done and our fate sealed. 

My brother, Adam, explained, clearly and cogently (he argues for a living) exactly why you procrastinators have more time this year. Here's a second helping for you. And don't tell me you thought he was writing about Abe Vigoda. I was born at night, but not last night. Enjoy your extension, Alexander Graham Bell.

I like what I do for a living (those for whom I work, maybe not so much) but how'd you like to tell folks you work for the Internal Revenue Service? Don't be like that! Somebody has to. Point in fact, tens of thousands of people do and despite our muttered imprecations and seriously intended aspersions cast without the benefit of a net, they do what they are charged to do and what Oliver Wendall Holmes, Jr. succinctly summed up, though probably pre-audit.  

We pay taxes every day. And every year we file a return to see if we are to get back some of our own money. I remember my wife filing her taxes in Germany when we lived there and her tax rate was staggering but despite the ransoms paid in withholding she rarely saw any money returned to her when she filed. 

I just assumed because her husband was universally regarded as such a sonderangebot, her government saw no reason to bless her twice. Strange how I never got around to mentioning that theory to her when we lived in her country.

Like you, in all probability, I filed my taxes already. Did I grumble? Of course, I did and anyone who tells you s/he didn't is a liar. And speaking of grumbling, I can only assume Jarod Kintz doesn't know my dulcet-toned friend from Palestine, Texas, David "Lips" Malone when he offers with some acerbity "Taxes and Texas, they have the same letters but only one can go to Hell."
-bill kenny

Friday, April 15, 2016

Look at that Beautiful Plumage

It really is a continuation of Letterman’s Stupid Human Tricks, but it involves animals or more specifically, a reticulated python, the world’s longest (very nearly) python. Perhaps, like me, you had wondered ‘what the heck is a reticulated python?’ Here, now you know; you’re welcome. 

As for the very nearly part of world’s longest reticulated python. More news bulletins, I’m afraid and none of them good, especially if you are a reticulated python, recently deceased.  

While death by misadventure has a certain ring to it, I love the inventiveness of a Malaysian government  spokesperson, Shazree Mustapha, who told the Guardian newspaper (in the UK) the massive snake could have “died on her own.” 

Yeah, I know. My left eyebrow is arching, too. But, what the hell; in for a penny, in for a pound. That's what the kids say. 

"Maybe she committed suicide,” Mustapha said. “Maybe she felt threatened so she killed herself.” What can I say? Game, set and match to Shazree. No more calls, please! We have a winner! 

Pining for the fjords, or the Malaysian equivalent. Perhaps after a prolonged squawk?
-bill kenny

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Choice of Cancer or Polio

Tonight at nine on CNN, the two people still seeking the nomination of the Democratic Party, Senator Bernie Sanders and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, will meet for a conversation that I fervently hope will be more civil and substantive than many of their exchanges over the last week to ten days have been. 

It follows three nights, back to back, of inspired or insipid (depends on your perspective) television also on CNN, their version of Meet the Fockers (I guess) with the Republican presidential candidates, Manny, Moe and Joe, each showing up with their families for a chit-chat. For a nation that's forever breathless keeping up with the Kardashians, it's comforting to worry about a Republican cloth coat and a dog named Checkers. 

At times, especially with the Senator from one of the Canadian provinces, it was like sightseeing in Hitler's Bunker during the Last Days while on speed. Not that The Kasich's didn't remind me a bit of The Appletons from the golden era of National Lampoon. And Donald and the Trumpsters, better than any mutant variant of Real Housewives you could ever imagine, except maybe Helmond Province. I was on the edge of my seat throughout. 

My moment of zen was, no surprise of course, with them, sort of like singing along with the Von Trapp Family in the Sound of Music, except I am running from not with them as a daughter is explaining how it's really dumb old New York State's fault she and her brother aren't registered to vote for Daddy Dearest. Dad had earlier whined at how all those really mean Republicans (no jokes about redundancy, okay?) are cheating him out of delegates in states he didn't win. 

Listening to her, it was comforting to realize the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.And yeah, I could truly feel her pain...except this is a family whose business seems to consist entirely of putting their names on things, from buildings through wineries to scarves. And yet neither she nor her brother could be bothered to put their names on a voter registration postcard and have one of the servants mail it? My heart bled peanut butter and jelly for them.

Actually, my heart beats on the left side of my body (was just in the shop, and the mechanics confirmed that, among other things) and my politics tends to reflect my heartbeat. And yet all I can do right now is yawn over the menu, the entrees and the poor table service so far here in the Miracle of Democracy Cafe.

This is the best one of the major parties in American Politics can do? Cruz, Kasich, and Trump? Sounds more like a grunge band in search of a record deal. The bad thing as far as I am concerned about the three hats remaining in the ring is one of them could win. And while I FeeltheBern, I also sense the fix is in on the other side of the aisle which will help make the road to November even longer, if that is even possible.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

I'm a Man with a Mission in Two or Three Editions

April, in addition to being (so far) a turbulent weather month, is also National Grilled Cheese Month. If you’re reading this before lunch, we both know what you’ll order now. You’re welcome. Try it with cream of tomato soup; it’s a wonderful combination. You could look it up.

Speaking of which, we’re in the middle of National Library Week, whose theme this year is “Libraries Transform.”  And when you look at the number of small (and successful) businesses that have sprung up and continued to spread around the Otis Library, it’s hard to disagree. 

No one (= me) is saying downtown Norwich is hopping 24/7 and we’d all agree we have a long way to go before anyone complains about too many people on the sidewalks, but there are busy storefronts all around Franklin Square and they seem to me to look to Otis Library the way the fingers of the hand look to the thumb.

I wanted to mention that before noting the Friends of Otis Library Book Sale (Spring edition; there’s another in October) that happens this weekend and which, if the past is prologue, will bring thousands (yes, I typed thousands) more people into Norwich.

At the risk of repeating myself let me do just that with words I offered a couple of years back about an event I never miss, and neither should you.

It starts this Friday morning at 9 with an Early Bird preview hour (ten dollars gets you first crack at memories and memorables), when the Friends of Otis Library unlock the basement doors to start the  Annual Spring Sale.

Aside from that Early Bird session, all three days are free. What’s your pleasure or passion? Sports, history, biography, gardening (since Spring seems to finally be here), mystery, classics of traditional and modern literature are all sorted, stacked and shelved at bargain basement prices.

And it's not just books; there are CD's, DVD's and vinyl collections and more. Book sale hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday and from noon to 3 on Sunday. And there’s tons of free parking, but not in the library. And after your book-buying binge, follow your nose and check out one of the restaurants as close to Otis Library as Dewey is to Decimal. 

The research I just made up suggests you can work up quite an appetite book shopping, a lot of people don't know that; don't you be one of them. And because you haven't been in downtown in a while you may not have noticed, but we have terrific places for a quick bite or to savor a full meal. 

And if the weather is even close to the spring we feel we are entitled to, it'll be a perfect time to break out one of those purchases and enjoy a sidewalk scene and a coffee. Perhaps you'll be inspired to write the next Great American NovelI think I know a library where people will really enjoy it.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

By the Waters of Babylon Redux

Last Sunday, April 3rd, marked the start of Holocaust Remembrance Week 2016, which ended this past Sunday. In a way, considering the unthinking brutality we, as a species, have visited upon one another since the dawn of time and we started to walk upright, you can be forgiven for wondering why commemorating the Shoah lasted only a week. And then you look at last week in American politics and .......

Places like Mississippi and North Carolina, among others, where being different is like wearing a target in a run-up to an Ameican Presidential race where one party can't seem to find enough 'others' to inflame its base, you have to wonder how so many can remember so little for so long. 

Yesterday, April 11, was the date in 1945 when (Western) Allied troops, specifically the US Army with (just about) one Canadian brigade, liberated Buchenwald, the last of the Nazi death factories. As a child growing up, I'd heard whispers by the post-World War II grown-ups, many who'd served in the wartime military about the camps, never grasping the enormity of the horror.

While living in (West) Germany I went to Bergen-Belsen (there was a huge NATO tank competition range near there at Fallingbostel) where, even decades after the horror, the early summer sky never seemed as blue overhead as it did on the Landstrasse leading to Celle and where I never saw an insect of any kind or heard the song of any bird.

Science dictates they had to be there somewhere, in this place where Anne Frank and her sister, Margot, died of typhus, two of the over one hundred thousand people who perished in captivity for the crime of being different. I felt foolish offering you a link on Anne Frank as you know who she is, unless you don't, which in that case speaks more loudly than I wish to ever hear.

Intolerance and hatred of the other have a long history with the human race. Some have speculated the first tool fashioned by the earliest man was a weapon to kill his neighbor. The Shoah marked the successful combining of primitive, superstitious and mindless hatred with the unfeeling, uncaring and antiseptic precision of the Industrial Revolution. 

In a perverse and reverse triumph, we out machined the machines in dispatching those unlike us with a uniformity and consistency never before seen in our history on this planet .

That it continues to happen, across our actually very small planet on a daily basis, in a variety of ways so numerous and subtle we often don't actually feel the hate, brings me to the brink of tears. To have come as far as we have, the self-anointed Crown of Creation, and to still be able to stoop so low. 

To be so willing to harness the ingenuity and intelligence of millions of years of evolution and education in the service of the most venal and loathsome of all of our emotions is to stand naked before the world whose judgment we have chosen to disregard.

"There on the poplars, we hung our harps; for there our captors asked us for songs. Our tormentors demanded songs of joy. They said, 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion!' O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us. He who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks." 
And thus begins the cycle again, never to end. 

-bill kenny

Monday, April 11, 2016

We Are All Once and Future Children

I found what follows in a note one of our children sent me years ago. I saved it, I hope because I found it practical and inspirational for my life as I was living it at that time. In my eyes, it's as true now as it was then except for the part where it's even more true (truer?). 

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us

Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you

We are all meant to shine as children doIt's not just in some of us; it is in everyoneAnd as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the sameAs we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
-bill kenny

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Faith Is as Cold as Ice

I wrote this some years back (actually longer than that but never mind). 

Nature knows things at which we bipeds with our computers and big brains can only guess (but now that we have the i-Pad, the playing field should soon level, right?). A couple of weeks ago, March 19, the Feast of Saint Joseph, as they always do, the swallows came back to Capistrano. From everything I've ever read, they've been doing this for quite a bit longer than it took us hairless apes to even notice. 

I refuse to buy in on 'no one knows why or how they know...' because I sincerely believe someone does and chooses to NOT tell the rest of us. It was very easy for me to remember the date of their return since it coincided with the birthdays of two of my favorite people on the planet, colleagues, now long passed, who had worked together for many years. I could, and should, have learned a lot more from them if I had listened harder to what they weren't saying.

I was thinking of them last night watching the bees who show up every spring to live under the wooden banisters of our front porch. I'm not sure if a bumble-bee is a real type of bee, or just a made up name but that's the way they look. They're black, with what look like a yellow pullover on and they hover about eight to ten inches off the steps when you come out on the porch and dart away, right after they zoom in, directly at you (as if scanning their sector).

I'm not an entomologist, but I find it interesting they seem to drill or eat through the underside of the railing, leaving little piles of sawdust as they go and live, I suppose, snug in the holes they create. At the end of the season, they disappear as suddenly as they arrived, and Sigrid, my wife, goes out with wood patching goop and fills in their holes which then dries and hardens and in the next spring the cycle begins again.

We have no idea what the bees are doing, aside from playing what looks like chicken with one another on the porch during most of the daylight hours. Sometimes, someone going up or down the three stairs from the porch to the sidewalk will attract their interest and they'll hover practically in the person's face, undaunted by waving hands (even if they get hit) until curiosity sated, they go back to Ollie, Ollie Oxen Free or whatever they're playing.

I'm not sure I'm not just a little jealous since they don't spend anywhere near as much of their time pondering me as I do them. They seem to be untroubled by questions such as Why are we here? Because we're here. Roll the bones. Why does it happen? Because it happens. Roll the bones.
-bill kenny