Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Every Whisper of Every Waking Hour

When we were kids in parochial school, tomorrow was a serious point in the calendar, Ash Wednesday. Today was the absolutely last day before we were expected to give something up for Lent, ShroveTuesday, though I'm not sure any of us understood what "shrove" meant or even the origins of the term. 

As an adult, I lived for many years in Germany where Rosen Montag is part of the last gasp of Fasching or (as it's called in New Orleans) Mardi Gras or what our Brazilian friends know as Carneval.

There's an 'eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow it's all over' mentality that I find so funky Western Civilization. "They put Jesus on a cross. They put a hole in J. F. K. They put Hitler in the driver's seat and looked the other way. Now they've got poison in the water and the whole world in a trance; but just because we're hypnotized, that don't mean we can't dance."

It's been decades since I gave something up for Lent (truth to tell, I failed my faith and gave up Lent but then kept on living) and I've rationalized my failure by pointing out to myself that since I always went back to whatever I gave up (usually something to eat as opposed to a behavior change), I hadn't really changed at all, so surrender cost nothing because it was worth nothing.

And then I look around me, and see where we are and where I am in the midst of all of that and realize I didn't run backwards or stop running at all in order to be here (nor did any of us) but rather, just ran a step slower, a step less resolute, perhaps a shorter footfall until the distance grew inexorably between where we wanted to be (and knew we had to go) and where we were to end up, so far behind we could no longer see those up ahead.

And when the distance between us was too great to ever fill, we stopped and have forgotten how to start again. Which makes tomorrow, Ash Wednesday more important as a beginning than today can ever be as an end because I think I saw you try.
-bill kenny

Monday, February 27, 2017

So How Was the Movie, Mr. Goldman?

No need to get excited. I was hoping to be able to sit at the cool kids' table for lunch today which is why I led with the Oscars visual.  I have no idea who won last night mainly because I didn't know who was nominated but despite that can be confident when I say I never saw any of the movies. Oh. And I was in bed before the first statuette was handed out.

Don't get me wrong, I like movies. I tend to have the projector in my head running non-stop every day, awake and asleep.  Have been having a little trouble lately with the take-up reel, but at my age, who hasn't? I agree with Raymond Douglas Davies; there's a lot to be said for celluloid heroes.  
-bill kenny

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Jetzt Wird Es Ernst

Reading some notes from around the world on-line earlier this weekend, I realized tomorrow in Mainz, Germany (and elsewhere) is Rosenmontag followed by Fastnacht Dienstag. Meanwhile, on this side of the pond, it's Mardi Gras in New Orleans. 

There are many variations of an 'eat, drink and be merry' mentality as we rush towards Ash Wednesday. Tradition has it, that the ash placed on your forehead by the priest who reminds you to 'remember man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return' is actually made from burning the palm that remained from the previous year's Palm Sunday (the day that starts Holy Week and marks the triumphant arrival of Jesus into Jerusalem). 

As a loyal son of Holy Mother Church, I know all the rituals and the words that accompany them--my memory isn't the problem, my heart is, but that's not my point today. As kids, and even as adults, we sometimes lose sight of where we might best concentrate on the calendar in terms of whatever you might wish to call spirituality. It's easy to celebrate Christmas and to believe in its importance and of course, the Birth of the Saviour should more often that not pass the "huh?" test. 

But I think the defining points that make me a Catholic and a Christian (or the other way around, I'm never sure which is a subset of what) is the death of Christ and His Resurrection. I'm not sure how we in The West (capitalization? Why Not?) have managed to balance the passion of the Christ, His Crucifixion, burial and His Resurrection with pieces of chocolate and the Easter Bunny. I'm not sure this entry will get reposted in the Cadbury Factory newsletter or be read aloud on Easter Monday in Hershey, Pennsylvania, but that's how I see the world. 

I'm neither Cotton nor Increase Mather, early colonial ministers one of whom purportedly said 'the purpose of life is to prepare us to be dead for a long time.' Talk about harshing your buzz. Maybe that's why you never saw a Pilgrim smile or maybe, if you have that as a perspective, life isn't quite as much fun as it could be. 
-bill kenny

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Golden Slumbers

In light of the epidemic of sleeplessness around the globe and within and without these states partially united, pretty much a by-product of our miracle of democracy last fall, I dusted this off from a short while ago and would be curious to know if any of its findings have been updated. I have no knowledge of that happening but would appreciate a shout-out from your side. Bueller? Bueller?

I love “news” like this that, more often than not, is closer to being a BGO (Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious). I am, possibly like you, an early riser-not quite as early as my brothers I suspect but I’d say if we were counting down who on my street has worms, I’d finish near the top, but behind both native Hawaiians and Alaskans. 

I will point out while I do get up early I also go to bed very early. So if you have an important topic to discuss with me, you need to do it before eight o'clock because I’m in Dreamland by then. And I’m a college graduate, so in looking at the report and then at my alarm clock, I don’t know what excuse to offer you except that however much sleep you get, neither of us is alone in our demographic (maybe). 

I was disappointed in skimming the story to not really get a sense of the ‘why?’ behind the ‘what.’ As I read it, it seems South Dakotans get the most shut-eye, or they claim to (I’m assuming people might fib about how much sleep they get, because I have a well-founded distrust of others from our species), but I didn’t really get a good sense as to the cause(s) of that journey to Slumberland.

And numbers without context or subtext cause me to have sleepless nights. Kidding, of course. 
-bill kenny

Friday, February 24, 2017

Cactus or Grapefruit

It's not like the first robin of spring or the return of the swallows to Capistrano, but having endured what felt like centuries of professional football (and don't get me started on professional basketball), as harbingers of better things go, we're close enough for me.

Perhaps the last five tool player?
You have your Grapefruit League and your Cactus League. I am keenly aware "the exhibition season means nothing" (to you). For those of us who love baseball, it's a chance to practice our skills as fans and to dream and dream on. Play ball (dammit)!!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Of Near Spring I Sing

Sometimes you learn things from people you know, but don't know, at least that's what I call Facebook (FB) friends. Moment of clarity (I have so few, I hope you appreciate this): for me, most FB friends aren't really friends. Even if I know them in real life, they're more acquaintances and since I don't know most of them in real life, they're abstractions with email addresses. If it helps, for them, I was probably a moment of confusion in the vain attempt to select the 'unlike' button.

I understand FB and I disagree with the basic premise behind the use of the word 'friend.' I'm not real fond of the casual attitude with which they bestow it and for their part, I am 'bill who?" (No relation to Cindy Lou). I don't have many, strictly speaking, I don't have any friends in real life, so I probably shouldn't pick a quarrel with Zuckerberg's minions over defining the word friend.

Bearing in mind the degree of presumption one has to have to be me and type this stuff every day and then wait for people to read it. At times, I sound like I'm two bricks short of a hod. Tell me about the rabbits, George. I love the color of it all.

And actually, that's what a FB friend (of a friend) neither of whom I'll ever meet, nor ever know, (from the formerly divided German nation) helped me learn in order to better get through whatever winter we have left in the Northeast of the United States.

One of them offered the words, auf englisch, of Ward Elliot Hour, "(t)he color of springtime is in the flowers, the color of winter is in the imagination." Though that's NOT the image they suggested to complement the turn of phrase; this is the one I found and while it hasn't helped me change my opinion of winter (Too Squared: too long and too cold), it has improved my appreciation of Rilke. "Live your questions now, and, perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers."

Why else do you think there are moments of more light with each passing day? We need to see where we're going or how will we know when we're there?
-bill kenny

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

An Uncas Leap of Faith

If you've lived in Norwich for longer than an hour you've heard or been involved in one or more discussions about the city's historic heritage as a fulcrum for economic development. And it certainly makes sense even if the dollars and cents have so far been slow in showing themselves. 

A friend of mine's reaction when I told him we had settled in Norwich says it all, or could, 'You're right in the middle of New England where American History comes from!" Yes, indeed. Put a feather in my hat and refer to me as whatever kind of pasta you fancy. 

The trouble not just for us here but whenever the idea is offered as an economic development tool, there's more to historic tourism than fancy signs that say "On this date a long time ago, something important happened (near) here" and repeating a snazzy slogan like 'we have history up the a---nose.'Well, I think it's catchy. 

You may have already seen two reasons, the above paragraph, for why I'm not leading an effort that needs your good ideas (I've got the bad ones under control). I took advantage of the lovely weather this past weekend to wander from the Upper Falls Heritage Park to Uncas Leap and then down the Heritage Walkway to the Harbor. 

I wasn't alone, as I passed young families with prams and more on the way, a few serious walkers striding purposely past us leisure-time wanderers but there was plenty of room for more of us, lots more of us. 

It's really beautiful any time of the year. The area is not only historically significant to the city but is also a sacred part of Mohegan Tribe history as Uncas Leap, on the banks of the Yantic River, was the site on September 17, 1643, of the Battle of Great Plain between the Mohegan and Narragansett tribes.

Thanks to a collaboration with the city, the Mohegan Tribe, and the Norwich Historical Society, a week from tonight, at seven in Norwich Free Academy's Slater Museum, there's a public informational meeting about the Uncas Leap Heritage Area master plan. 
And the most important guest is you. Read on.... 

Both the presentation and master plan have some serious dollars behind them. The state awarded $500,000 to the project last fall and that was in addition to the almost quarter of a million dollars the city received in 2015 from the Department of Economic and Community Development plus $23,000 the Norwich Community Development Corporation received from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.

You might recall it was late last spring when the historical society and the Mohegan tribe teamed up to introduce (with a great response) the new Uncas Leap Trail as part of its Walk Norwich program of self-guided walking tours.Think of the presentation as the next step, pardon the pun.

Next Wednesday Milone & MacBroom, the project's consultant, will offer an overview of the Uncas Leap master plan and lead a discussion about the city's vision for the site as a cultural heritage and tourism attraction, You're needed for the breakout sessions that will be held to gather reactions and ideas (and hopefully plenty of both).

Maby have had high hopes for a (very) long time about historic tourism. Now we have a plan. It's time to Uncas Leap into action.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

These Lifeless Things

It was a very long time ago when I wanted to grow up to be an astronaut. I wasn't alone; there was a whole generation of us who watched Jules Bergman, 'Science Reporter for ABC', bring us all the rocket launches from Cape Canaveral, later Cape Kennedy, dreaming of being John Glenn.

Our window on the world back then was about fifteen inches diagonal and almost always in black and white. It was our electric fire with a place of honor in the living room. We didn't know any better, or any other, and were happy with what we had. Now we have so much more but there remains a hunger and unease that never leaves us. 

When I was a wee slip of a lad, you had a transistor radio with a white six-foot earplug and if your mom wrote a note to the teacher, you might be able to take your radio to school and listen in to the launches, but you had to promise to be so much more well-behaved than was humanly possible. The note was often not worth the paper you forged your mom's signature on.

Still, we all sat up, in my case on the upstairs landing of the summer house, catching glimpses of the flickering images in the living room from the TV showing the world as we walked on the moon. I saw a story yesterday that put me back on those stairs, and it was nice to be numbed by the majesty of achievement that we humans are capable of when we try, "Discovery of Likely Alien Worlds Has Scientists Buzzing."

I guess the AP style guide frowns on headlines that read "Holy $h*t! Are We Not Amazing?" because that's what we're talking about in terms of the newest addition to our college of knowledge about the ever-expanding cosmos we think revolves around us but really has evolved with us as a small and growing smaller part of it. 

We've made a mess of so many things as a species. We're the hit and run artists of the cosmos in so many respects but when we do something gobsmacking and over the top, there's a nonchalant arrogance, or perhaps an arrogant nonchalance that makes me grin from ear to ear. How's this for a view of the Sahara to put in your wallet, between the happy snaps of the kids and the spouse. Seriously? Seriously.

"Round the decay/Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away."
-bill kenny

Monday, February 20, 2017

Reaching Back a Long Time

I first offered this during the first year I started throwing these words against the Interwebz and hoping something would stick. If you remember them from back then then I guess you were what stuck. Thanks.

I can remember as a kid we had off from school on both Lincoln's Birthday and on Washington's Birthday (we also heard from the sixth graders 'they don't celebrate Lincoln's Birthday in the South because of The War'). Children of the Baby Boom, and part of the cohort that was in the first part of that boom, I'm not sure all my classmates understood which 'the war' the sixth graders were talking about. 

We had, after all, learned to duck under our desks and turn away from the windows during the air raid drills we seemed to have on a daily basis. I wasn't that old when something happened in Cuba, or near it, that scared the willies out of the grown-ups and we started having drills at school almost every day. Still, I didn't understand what war "the South" was angry about until catching a TV show (I think on ABC) on Saturday afternoons about the The Civil War. It turned my world upside down. 

I think we're all similar in that we are, each, the center of our own universe, and we assume the world as it is, is how it's always been. The idea that some of my classmates in Mrs. Hilge's 3B would have been considered furniture a hundred years earlier struck me as surreal. As I grew older (not matured) and I learned how prevalent and historic the slave trade was, and in some places still is, and how much carnage the so-called Civil War created (fought for many different reasons as I was to learn), the more profound became my admiration for Mr. Lincoln. 

Who didn't already admire the Father of Our Country, George Washington (though I never did figure out who the mother is)? The chopping down of the cherry tree, the crossing of the Delaware, "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen'. It was amazing to me as a schoolchild to have had two Presidents born in the same month with such a profound impact on our country. 

And now, see how we run. We have today, a Monday holiday, to honor all of those who have been President to include Warren Harding, Millard Fillmore and William Henry Harrison. I'm sure each, well and lesser known, has had a hand in making us who we are today. But the rest of who we are, we did to ourselves.

I still believe I live in a country when anyone can grow up to be President and that, more than any specific person who's ever been President, is why I celebrate this holiday. It's not a reason to buy a new mattress, lease a new car or truck or go to the mall and clean up on the post-Valentine's day stuff at Victoria's Secret (in light of those outfits where would she keep anything secret?). 

It would be nice to spare a thought for the tens of thousands of our best and brightest young, and not so young, men and women we have across the globe in places that make the news every night (like Iraq and Afghanistan) as well as places whose names we probably struggle to pronounce who protect, among other things, the rights of daydreamers to imagine they, too, could grow up to be President.
-bill kenny

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Answering Samuel Morse's Question

I am very close to the mineral level of intelligence when it comes to comprehending the rate and pace of technological advancement everywhere in the world in which we live. I confess to still, after a lifetime (so far) of study, to be both enthralled and amazed by mundane miracles like the thermos. Yes, you read that correctly, the 'humble' thermos. But is it really? Think about it. The thermos keeps hot thing hot and cold things cold but how does it know the difference?

So you can imagine how hard the little engine that can't, my brain, worked when first reading months and months ago about clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) which, much to my surprise, and possibly yours, is NOT the name of an up and coming grunge band from Old Bridge, NJ. But I'll give you credit for a good try.

One of my Facebook friends and a very talented person (despite her sometimes questionable taste in Facebook friends), Linda Chorney, led me to CRISPR through her involvement in TED Talks, whose existence, alone, atones for E! and most of the other vanity channels (looking at you, Bravo). It was via one of the TED TALKS that I first heard of Jennifer Doudna and CRISPR.

And to think I started out with "draw the dog's head" from a matchbook cover
This is incredible stuff and more than just a little scary. From what (little) I understand we can now repair ourselves. You hear complaints all the time about 'so and so is playing God,' and this, at least to me, seems to have very little play involved.

Sometimes arts and science outrace legal, moral and societal regulations, restrictions, mores, and taboos and this seems to fall very much in that category. And, perhaps a sign of the times in which we live, there's a monetary aspect to the creation (and alteration) of life I had not really appreciated until this news story.

But, and I'll let draw your own conclusions on the story and the process, my blood runs more than a  little cold(er) when someone offers an observation like, "CRISPR is a gold mine, and that's why you are seeing a gold rush." There's a fine line between being God's children and being God ourselves.
-bill kenny

Saturday, February 18, 2017

FusterCluck at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Somewhere Hunter S. Thompson is smiling. Or maybe he's grimacing. From this distance, they both look very much the same. The author of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, the most amazing book ever written in my limited experience on the re-election of Richard M. Nixon and on American politics in general, would absolutely love the carnival of cretins and criminals who've taken up residence in our nation's capital.

You never knew what was real and what wasn't in Thompson's work. Of course, now, we could fall back on alternative facts and never need to use the word 'lies.' Actually, I'm not sure alternative facts and self-medicating with a heaping helping of Ibogaine will make our current journey through Mistah Kurtz's Heart of Darkness any easier, but to be honest, Guy, it might make it more entertaining.

For those angered that their country turned into something they didn't recognize and who wanted to punish everyone and anyone they felt responsible for what was happening in the Land of the Round Doorknobs and demanded change in the worst way possible, congratulations, bunkie. I think that's exactly what you wound up ordering for all of us.

Not knowing something is ignorance. It's not bad. It's not good; it just is. I strive (and too often fail) to never attribute to malice that which can be explained by ignorance, but that belief is being sorely tested every single day by your guy in the Oval Office.

Pride in NOT knowing something is arrogance. And so we are clear, arrogance is bad. More to the point, it is a horribly apt description of the White House at this moment. I didn't vote for the current occupant but we all gotta dance with the one you brung, and that means we are in big trouble.

Subject to your questions, and put your tiny hand all the way up in the air so it can be seen, this most definitely concludes today's briefing.
-bill kenny

Friday, February 17, 2017

Republican Gefiltefish

I wrote this many years ago, possibly before you were born; sadly (for me) NOT before I was born. As I recollect it, I was attempting to be whimsical. But as always, the Soviet judge gave me three measly points. Vlad, you scamp!

Republican Gefiltefish may have been what the woman at the deli counter in the Stop and Shop ordered a pound of on Friday afternoon. Or not. To tell the truth I'm not sure. But it was memorable, assuming that was what she actually said. Perhaps it was an homage to J. D. Salinger, perhaps not. 

I was sort of within earshot hovering over the salad bar which is in the back of the store in the same quadrant as the deli which is neighbors with the produce section near the seafood. They can put the seafood section in the parking lot for all I care. Or in Rhode Island, which would be even better.

The deli counter is very nearly Air Age in that you can place an order on a touch screen and then go about your shopping elsewhere in the store. I just realized we can do this probably because we have a Super Stop and Shop and are a planet in a galaxy with a yellow sun. Around here we say, Screw Bob, Jor-El's your grocer. In the course of your shopping you'll then hear a voice announce 'Deli Order Number __ is ready for pick up at your convenience' Waste of time as far as I'm concerned. If I can pick it up at my convenience, I will; leave me alone in the meantime.

Our daughter Michelle prepares good food lunches for the both of us (like maybe I look like I've missed a lot meals. Not.) but when she doesn't, I'm still set. I like the grocery's salad bar a lot as I'm trying to be good about eating healthy (there are many shades of good, at least I'm hoping so) and it's a key ally in my effort to live forever. I won't make it but I'd like to see how close I can get. I set another personal best this morning, so yay me.

I had a colleague just about half way round the world in a place that makes 'hostile working environment' sound like a day at the beach who, if I understood her correctly, was involved (for grins and giggles) in a weight loss contest to see who could lose 8% of their body weight first. I'm hoping the winner received a free dinner.

Actually what I was hoping was that the group of them were attempting an escape-they were just doing it a pound at a time. None of the people in the contest were close to heavy, so I'm thinking it was the challenge of trying to go AWOL, absent without leave, that attracted them to the idea. It wasn't, I think, so much subversive as silly.

Considering all of them were in a combat zone, it's crazy to suggest they were 'risking their lives or their health,' since, duh see clause immediately after gerund earlier in this sentence. Left foot, right foot, moving. Get out of your bed, soon you'll be improving. I never saw so many tigers.
-bill kenny

Thursday, February 16, 2017

When You Can't Say Something Nice

I'm thinking Old Willie was right way more often than he wasn't.

Let me explain.

I was caught up short reading the other day online in the Stars and Stripes (old habits die hard, I know), speaking of dying, a report on an obituary of a former Navy veteran who passed away last month at the age of 74, an age the obit noted,"which was 29 years longer than expected and much longer than he deserved."

Before you do (as I did) which was to pause and go 'whoa! That's cold! read the story and the obit writer's explanation for why she would offer those words of remembrance about her father that she chose to write.

And then ponder if you will for a moment the notion that we live on in the memories of all those whose lives we have touched, for good and ill, for far longer than the time we walked this earth. Make every heartbeat and footfall count.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Half of Us Are Satisfied

It's probably a scene out of the movie made at your house, too, on many winter mornings. The soundtrack always includes the furnace coming on or already on as you kick off the covers, get out of bed and begin the day.

Your house is warm, perhaps even cozy, by the time you're ready for breakfast before you head out to school or work. Yeah, for a lot of us that's our routine and we've grown comfortable with it, to the point we may not realize others open their eyes in a cold house and have to face tough daily decisions for themselves and their family before the coffee (or cocoa) assuming there is any, is even finished.

During what we call the 'holiday season' from around Thanksgiving through the New Year, we tend to be a bit more observant of the scene around us in terms of who has enough and who needs a helping hand. But the holidays are long past and those generous donations to agencies and charities, much and deeply appreciated as they were, are completely expended by now, but the need for help continues.

We've been there, or think we have, I guess. The tough times, the money is tight times and we know what the struggle feels like, but if you're reading this, I can assure you we are better off, vastly better off, than many who live not just in our state but perhaps on our street.

I have never needed to make a 'Heat or Eat' decision and I hope, neither have you. New England winters can be bone-numbingly cold in the best of times, but when you're choosing to pay your heating bill or to buy groceries, we're looking at a decision that can freeze your heart and crush your hope. In a nation that prides itself on how we care for and about one another, Heat or Eat should be a turn of phrase none of us has ever heard or used.

Every time I visit the Stop & Shop in the Norwichtown Common, like so many others, I add a canned good or two (kept right there at the check-out) to my order as a donation to the St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry but I have no illusions, nor do you, as we're walking away from the cashier that we've 'taken care of' that problem.  

Regular donations to agencies such as the Connecticut Food Bank too often feel like we're using a teaspoon to empty an ocean, especially when nearly half a million Connecticut residents every month need some form of assistance from an agency supported by the Food Bank.

Over 140,000 of our children are "food insecure" (= no reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable and nutritious food). That is at least 140,000 too many. The solution to this problem isn't in Washington or Hartford, it's in each of us.

Two weeks from today, is Ash Wednesday, marking the start of Lent. How about this year, instead of giving something up, we give something to those who are helping others? Time, talent, treasure, it's your choice, Together, we can change the world, one meal at a time, every time.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

That Ain't What Scares Me Baby

I often wonder, in light of the journey so far, if he who travels fastest misses the entire point of the sojourn when he has no one with whom to share it. As someone who was very much, and for very long, unlovable, this is a day of major import and minor miracle for me all at the same all at the same time. I celebrate my fortieth Valentine's Day with the love of my life, Sigrid.

I looked at photos of my wife and me back when we were fab and she was, as she still is, absolutely beautiful to me. It took zero intelligence for me to fall in love with her at first sight and something far rarer than intelligence to help us stay in love all those years on. I do find myself looking at her, then and now, and wondering if she still sees me as I was or as I am now and if the latter, why does she stay?

We have, she and I, grown old together which causes me to smile as I had nothing nearly so grand in mind when I first saw her. And there are those who knew me back before the day who would be amazed that she kept me nailed to one place long enough for all those years to have become all these years, and to some degree, I echo their amazement. 

We share a life that isn't and will never be the one I thought I wanted when I believed things worked out the way we desired (if we only wanted something bad enough), but when I reach the end of every day, to include today, I look at her and at our two adult children, Patrick and Michelle, and know that I love, and am loved by, them and I can't complain about some settling of the contents during shipment. Happy Valentine's Day.
-bill kenny

Monday, February 13, 2017

Timeless or Just Out of Time?

This was originally called "Explains Geoffrey's Black Armband." I think it still does.

The Scandinavian people in my experience are some of the most polite, thoughtful and considerate fellow-travelers here on Spaceship Earth. Practically Canadian. And yet, as if to help prove that on any given Sunday any team can be—WHAT? Oh, that’s an NFL thing. Sorry. See? That apology is very Scandinavian, too, but over the weekend, this happened, and try as I might I can’t really suggest what I would/could/should have done.

When Sigrid and I lived in Germany we never passed up an opportunity to go to a zoo, and had the good fortune to have a world-class one in Frankfurt not that we didn’t ‘cheat’ and see other animals in other places when we weekended.

As you’ve read in the article, the scientific director of the Copenhagen Zoo received death threats over this chain of events which suggests a degree of passion I thought the Danes reserved only for Danish Dynamite, their national football clubSome things can NOT be unseen; that was one of them.

I concede that reading an account of this in the Grey Lady, The New York Times, may not be the ideal venue or medium because of the resolute striving to NOT take sides that is a hallmark of the paper (though I may ruin your enjoyment of pictures, accounts and descriptions when I tell you that many people don’t fully realize its editorials are usually on the front page). Despite that snarkiness I must also add it’s more Fair and Balanced asleep than Faux Gnus is when wide-awake (in my opinion).

Marius was born and died in captivity, confined for our amusement and entertainment I suppose. Perhaps this is not true for you, but strip away all the veneer of scientific inquiry; when I go to the zoo it’s not to observe the animals. I like looking at them and they make me smile, and laugh.

Actually, in terms of the latter, there’s a Mona monkey somewhere in NYC, I’m thinking the Central Park Zoo, who broke my powers of observation a really long time ago. And it (never figured out he or she) would have broken something else had it been able to reach me.

The article doesn’t make clear to me how Marius was selected (I’m thinking no rocks, paper or scissors were harmed in the making of the lions’ lunch) not that such information would change my disquiet about all of this.

I’m the kind of person who watches the National Geographic Channel and Animal Planet, right up until the moment the shark’s jaws snap shut on the seal, or the tiger catches the wildebeest or the crocodile plays Captain Hook with a zebra. At that very moment, I can’t click away fast enough or far enough.

Maybe I should carry the remote with me everywhere.
-bill kenny

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Abraham Lincoln's Birthday is still on my calendar for today.It's printed alongside the date as is "Administrative Professionals Day" on 21 April, but it has had less meaning for decades, since Congress passed the Monday Holidays Act and we rolled it into the other February birthday celebrating the Father of Our Country, George Washington (normally 22 February). 

That George spent more than half of his farewell address warning his countrymen about the dangers of political partisanship, I find, in light of where we are today, astounding. That Honest Abe used his Second Inaugural Address to offer "(w)ith malice toward none, with charity for all..." at a moment in our history where we most fervently hated one another (with a ferocity that would cost him his very life a little more than thirteen months later) causes me to wonder why we, you and me and all the lunatic loudmouths and bombastic blowhards on either side of the political fence, can't pipe down long enough to work together to get this cart we're all in out of the ditch we've maneuvered it into. 

To put it into perspective when Washington and Lincoln were presidents, people disagreed to the point they fired weapons at one another--and you've seen 'em, it took work to shoot at somebody. None of this cap bustin' stuff-serious mayhem was on the agenda. All this pouting and posturing we are up to on Sunday morning talk shows, the lawns of the White House and in the Halls of Congress makes my brain hurt and when we get all through sorting out who's to blame for all the wrongs and shortcomings, real and/or imagined, maybe we can devote a scintilla of that energy to fixing things. We certainly have a target-rich environment to choose from, don't we? 

With DNA testing the way it's working out, don't you suppose the day will come when we could, theoretically, work up political profiles of those enshrined in the Tomb of the Unknowns. And don't think somebody will try to make political hay out of it because you'll be sadly disappointed. It would make as much sense as turning immigration and open borders into a litmus test or reinventing what should be the right to accessible, affordable health care as a variant of the Great Loyalty Oath, but no matter. It's a fine line between pathetic and petard. Try drawing it for a while and then get real. And stop being so cranky with one while we're doing it.
-bill kenny

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Suddenly the Seasons Become Rationed

We had a lot of snow around here earlier this week (better part of a foot and change), hours after we had had blue skies, soft breezes and temps in the upper fifties and early sixties (think: pre-Beatles).

Please don't tell me 'well, everyone in the Northeast had snow' because that doesn't do anything for my mountains of white stuff. And unless you're new here, by now you have to know this is all about me (and only occasionally anyone else).

My passionate dislike of snow hasn't lessened or decreased in any way as the calendar pages have continued to turn. As my family can attest, I actually become angry when it snows, as irrational as even I recognize that behavior to be.

Shoveling and maneuvering the snowblower on Thursday evening once the snow stopped, I flashed on a memory of perhaps when I was an only child, living in Belford, New Jersey and in the backyard playing after a snowfall in which the snow was so deep, it was over my head.

I had dug paths in our backyard that faced a wetland (I think it was, even if we didn't call it that yet) and remember Mom coming out the back door that was at the mud room with the washer and dryer yelling for me and I'd have to run the length of the path so she could see and hear me.

I made myself smile by realizing that winters are milder now than when I was a kid, but, of course, there seems to be less snow because I am taller (and older, and grayer and less intelligent but I compensate for that by being less tolerant of others) than when I was four.

When I was a kid, I didn't know anyone at all the age I am now. I'm not sure I am cut out to be a chronological pioneer, but as if on cue, another day begins and here I am.  
-bill kenny

Friday, February 10, 2017

Hi, Jean!

If perspiring were a superpower you'd see me wearing a damp cape everywhere. It may not seem like much of one, but perspiring is, I've come to accept, my superpower. I can break a sweat, just thinking about sweating and I've been this way since I was a child.

Actually, I perspire on the coldest of days (and did so most days for thirteen months while assigned to an airbase in Greenland in another life) or just standing still, in the shade, drinking a cool beverage. And, being honest, I don't just perspire, I sweat like some kind of a stevedore unloading a freighter in the noon-day sun.

I was the kid whose shirts were always ruined and for whom there was, and still is, little hope. To this day, I try every new underarm deodorant, roll-on or spray, in the hopes that 'this is the one.' It never is, of course. Talk about Sinbad and his seven voyages, for Pete's sake..

I saw something the other day where folks with similar problems use botox. Actually, they use it to treat hyperhidrosis (too bad it's not also a treatment for getting over yourself), and it's expensive and has a variety of side effects (aside from making you poorer). I use a roll-on, not a gel (I find them to be a little creepy but less messy than the white flaky roll-ons) that I think is a fragrance that's no longer being manufactured.

I've gone from using one with a scent resembling Desperado Under the Eaves to Anarchy, under my arms if not in the UK.
-bill kenny

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Diamonds Are Nice, but Take My Advice

I understand why I'm seeing so many of a particular kind of product advertisement on television in recent days. I own a calendar, and unlike our new Secretary of Education, can do the math to get me to February 14th. 

I enjoy the TV commercials I'm watching for companionship services (I’m trying to avoid saying ‘meat market dating operations’) with my favorite one, perhaps because of my Catholic School upbringing, still being Christian Mingle. I don't understand why they shied away from a tag line like ‘The Lord Wants You to Get Your Freak On.’ I think that says ‘seal the deal for real’ in a way their audience can better understand.

There’s an ad for Zoosk I've seen that has something about “first it begins with like” which does a nice job of lowering the bar for expectations, and has probably done wonders for sales of smoke alarm batteries and dish towels, too (I suspect).

We’re a species cursed/blessed with a burning desire for a pairing and sharing with some oft-unspoken hope that Sweet Dreams Are Made of This to the point that in our search to avoid being alone with ourselves we welcome advice and relationship tips from any source, even if (as you’ll see in the clip) those undertaking such actions are not sanguine of a Happy Ending.     

I’m not sure what the first woman, “a loyal Cosmo reader since I was a child,” was doing with the magazine when she was a child (I hope NOT reading it for the articles), but as a guy who was the second of the two people in his (still) current relationship to realize he had found something special, I’m here to tell any and all women this close to Valentine’s Day that us guys are stunningly simple creatures who have little to no comprehension (and less appreciation) of context, pretext or subtext.

Whether you are still searching or desperately seeking, all the services and the glitzy magazines add up to nothing when eyes meet and smiles are shared. One lifetime or one night, the depth of passion is the same, it’s the degree of commitment that shifts.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Further Thoughts, Farther Along

The front page photos last week in the newspaper about the work crews covering the windows in the Reid & Hughes building with plywood made me think of an old George Harrison lyric, "and my advice for those who die: declare the pennies on your eyes." 

I also recalled something I offered in this space almost exactly three years ago, neither prescient nor precocious (I am genetically incapable of either) but frighteningly familiar because so often so much of what we plan to do is what we have already done.

The Reid and Hughes Building was already dark when I arrived here in 1991. That empty, abandoned carcass of a memory for so many who grew up here and whose dreams have grown old here has stood silent and sullen, accusing every passer-by of betrayal and worse every day ever since.

In the last two-plus decades, any number of initiatives, all well-meant some more half-hearted and/or full-throated than others were launched in the hope of restoring the building but every effort seemed to just miss the mark. The successive disappointments made the next attempt that much harder until in recent years we basically gave up and abandoned the building in place.

Hiked down on Sunday to take this (and to shake my head)
Our well-meant intentions helped create a full-blown eyesore which all of us will see when and if the Rose of New England chooses to remove its rose-colored glasses and look inward with the same unforgiving gaze we reserve so often for outsiders. 

Make no mistake, we did this to ourselves and if we fail to agree on how to proceed, not just for Reid & Hughes, or just Chelsea but for all of Norwich, we are actually planning to fail.

If experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted, we have all the experience we'll ever need to rebuild the Chelsea District and the entire city. Energy and engagement along with a double dollop of hope are essential for any project but none of them, by themselves or together, is a plan and a plan is what has been conspicuous in its absence.

As those working at the Norwich Community Development Corporation (NCDC), the City of Norwich Planning Department, the Community Development Agency, together with volunteers on a dozen and more municipal agencies, boards and commissions know, a plan has specific, measurable, achievable, realistic targets (SMART). That is why SMART communities have plans and too many others have hope but little else. Sound familiar?

Planning involves candor. We need to be relentlessly honest with one another and to speak in clear, unambiguous language that doesn't need a decoder ring or subtitles. Where yes and no are clearly understood. Perhaps most importantly we need to agree that it's okay to disagree without becoming disagreeable. When to evaluate a proposal on its merits and not base our feelings about it on the person or group who sponsors it.

What does lost opportunity look like? Pretty much like this.
We should trust one another to create a collaboration that subordinates our individual best efforts in service of a higher communal ideal so we can more effectively and efficiently turn a specific proposal into a shared idea and adopt its implementation as our municipal goal.

We need to allow those tasked with the responsibility to evaluate the proposals to do so in an agenda-free environment using their knowledge and real world experiences to arrive at a recommendation for the City Council’s review.

We live in a world of data-driven decisions and there should be little room and less patience for soft words masking hard truths. Henry Ford who knew a little something about how to build things once offered: "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."
-bill kenny