Archive for November, 2012

“The Right Amount of Dumb”

November 23, 2012

That I’ve found more truth in bars than churches through the years is more a subjective recollection than a substantive recommendation, but it’s a reflection that found new validation recently when Casey came up with a wonderful phrase seemingly out of nowhere.

Casey Schuetz is President/Owner of MAMA TRYD Productions and has been busy staging live band presentations locally at The Oak Room for the last year or so. We were recently enjoying a few adult beverages together at that fine establishment when Casey started reminiscing about an uncle of his who had a way with words. In offering qualified evaluation of the world in general and certain people in particular, Casey’s uncle would often say that sometimes it all comes down to “just the right amount of dumb.”

Those words struck me like a diamond bullet. I almost spilled my Irish Car Bomb. Almost. For the uninitiated, an Irish Car Bomb is made with Guinness Stout, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Jameson’s Irish Whiskey. It was invented in 1979 at Wilson’s Saloon in Norwich, Connecticut. Once poured, it must be consumed quickly or it curdles like a lost love, perhaps abandoned for chronically exhibiting “the right amount of dumb.”

Indeed, until that close to a wasted whiskey moment, it had never dawned on me that there actually might be a critical mass of ignorance that, once achieved, renders future reversal or redemption functionally impossible. In this context, please note that the word “ignorant” doesn’t mean stupidity, but, according to Noah Webster, indicates “a deliberate disregard of reality” and “dumb” should be similarly considered by its first dictionary definition as “lacking the power of speech; mute.”

In a collective sense, “the right amount of dumb” comes about when, for reasons of conviviality or convenience, we tolerate and at times enthusiastically embrace core nonsense even at the risk of cataclysmic peril.

Setting aside all 70,000 square feet of “Creation Museum” in Petersburg, Kentucky ($29.95 for Adults 13-59) — the science is irrefutable.

We balance in precise planetary alignment. Above is the Sun, while beyond orbit frigid sister planets. Below churns the molten core of an Earth upon which we rest in cool comfort — between Fire and Ice.

We’re moving one hundred miles per second (one quick breath) in our annual journey around the Sun, and that doesn’t factor an expansion of the Universe that may even exceed the speed of light.

“Hang On, Sloopy” — The McCoys (1965)

“Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.” Genesis 3:19

In the physical realm, we are pure stardust.

We cooled four billion years ago when Earth was formed.

We’ll be free again in another four billion years when the Sun runs out of hydrogen and becomes a giant red star.

We humans haven’t been in charge very long. It took hundreds of generations thousands of years to guess our planet has more sides than one. You’d think the Moon might have provided the clever with a clue.

In one of his more wildly optimistic moments, noted Astronomer/Scientist/Pot Smoker Carl Sagan once calculated chances of the human race avoiding self-extermination through a full nuclear exchange at less than one percent.

It’s become so fashionable to ignore the obvious.

And yet I somehow intuitively sense that in the end we’ll all be fabulously fine in spite of ourselves.

If it’s not too late to preach and practice the right amount of smart.

This Holiday Season seems a perfect place to start.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” — Luke 2:14

“Strange Daze”

November 9, 2012

Early Wednesday morning on November 7th, following his re-election as President of the United States, Barack Obama graciously attempted to call Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, and Republican Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, to assure them of his desire to constructively work with the new Congress in addressing many pressing concerns facing our nation. In both instances, the President was told Boehner and McConnell were sound asleep with instructions not to be disturbed.

I initially found this more than a bit puzzling- — perhaps even an unpleasant echo of last July’s refusal by Boehner to return three Presidential phone calls near the conclusion of the divisive and completely unnecessary “debt ceiling crisis” instigated by Tea Party purists last year. This debacle eventually resulted in adoption of the infamous “Budget Control Act of 2011”, which then led Standard and Poor to downgrade the credit rating of the United States government from AAA to AA in early August and set the stage for the “Fiscal Cliff” looming before us on December 31st — a challenge which really isn’t news at all to anyone who’s been paying attention.

But Boehner and McConnell weren’t the only ones displaying strange behavior in the wake of final election results. A number of sources report Governor Romney was absolutely “shell shocked” and “dazed” as the reality of his dramatic defeat became more and more undeniable, particularly since he had only written an acceptance speech, disdaining the need for preparation of any concessionary language. Romney also had authorized a “Transitional Website” depicting him as President-Elect, a decision causing further embarrassment when it accidentally went on line. Plans were scrubbed at the last minute by the campaign for an eight-minute display of fireworks over Boston Harbor. Meanwhile, things were even more publicly humiliating over at FOX News.

Karl Rove is a leading Republican operative and fleecer of several hundred million dollars in political action committee (PAC) funds from billionaires who should have known better and won’t be getting their money back. Mr. Rove is also on the payroll as a “News Commentator” on “Fair and Balanced” FOX and was right there in the thick of things Tuesday night when he freaked-out on the air before millions of stunned viewers who had been promised a landslide Romney win of historic proportion. Ohio was his Waterloo.

At 8:13 PM Oakhurst Time, FOX News analysts declared that President Obama had carried Ohio, a win that virtually assured him a second term in office. Karl Rove instantly insisted that couldn’t possibly be true, claiming that he was on the phone with a senior Romney official who was furious that the network had blown the call.

After twenty minutes of heated confrontation between Rove and FOX’s team of voting analysts, anchor Megyn Kelly took matters in her own hands and stormed thirty yards down the hall on camera to confront Arnon Mishkin, leader of the decision team. In no uncertain terms, Mishkin more than satisfactorily proved his position before everyone watching — by that point adding that President Obama had not only placed first in Ohio, but had conclusively carried the day nationally.

With all this in mind, my own suspicion is that Senator McConnell and Speaker Boehner were “sleeping” when the President called following his victory because –they just didn’t know what to say. Without reservation or qualification, they honestly had become thoroughly convinced that Romney would crush his opposition and commence the initiation of an irresistible ideological fantasy –a Republican Permanent Majority in Congress and the Presidency – a reign faithfully promised by Rove and his ill-starred ilk. Few things can leave one feeling so alone and vulnerable as failed group-think.

As a people, we cannot afford to be represented by those who only believe what comforts convictions and conforms to preconditioned mindsets. Open hearts are a prerequisite for congenial debate and wide-awake leadership is essential for just governance.

I’m trusting my friends of Conservative persuasion will note the emerging consequences of choreographed, talking point, echo chamber rhetoric.

And won’t get fooled again.

“Sea Change?”

November 2, 2012

“If we don’t run Chris Christie, Romney will be the nominee and we’ll lose.”

— Ann Coulter — Pedantic pundit and fingernails on a blackboard screaming scourge of anyone politically left of King George the Third — February 12, 2011 — addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

So how ironic it was witnessing the Governor of New Jersey, keynote speaker at the 2012 Republican National Convention, repeatedly lavishing effusive praise on Democratic candidate Barack Obama last week as Federal and State governments effectively and efficiently joined forces in the aftermath of one of the most violent oceanic storms in our American experience — in the process providing a critical pivot point in one of the closest Presidential elections in history.

What a finish line first!

And it all made perfect sense.

Talk about a “win-win-win” proposition!

President Obama obtained an enormous boost in bi-partisan acceptance and credibility.

Governor Christie scored equal measures of both and paved the way for a smoother road to re-election next year in New Jersey and nomination as head of the G.O.P. ticket in 2016.

But, most importantly, America won.

In setting aside arbitrary, unyielding ideological positions and offering up each other’s available talents and treasures for a common good, President Obama and Governor Christie got things done.

How wonderful it will be should this represent a truly sea changing harbinger of positive things to come.

Let’s unlock some doors and throw away some keys.

I’ve always been intellectually perplexed and emotionally frustrated by the horrible notion that conventional custom requires friendly dialogue to avoid any discussion of “religion or politics.” What could be possibly more interesting? Zumba?

The fact of the matter is — we all actually know very little about a lot.

In earliest days, radio was my window to the world. Recalling living pictures more than sound, “Let’s Pretend” from CBS was unmatched. Cream of Wheat was the first and only sponsor of “Let’s Pretend”. It was the early ’40′s.

“Cream of Wheat is so good to eat, Yes, we have it every day. We sing this song, it will make us strong, And it makes us shout – Hooray”!

“Let’s Pretend” was make believe – a Saturday morning children’s program offering whimsical tales of fantasy and fairy tales. It was the life work of Nila Mack, a Kansas woman who had been an actress on Broadway. She felt the best way to tell a children’s story was with kids. Mack developed a company of versatile juveniles who could play a variety of changing roles week after week. She trained and directed two generations of child actors. She was known as “the fairy god-mother of radio.” When I met LuLu Finley of “Golden Chain Theater”, I thought of Nila.

Nila would say — “Hello Pretenders! Hello, Uncle Bill!” “LET’S PRETEND!”

Were I in charge of all organized religions in every church, temple, synagogue, mosque or Irish bar around the world, I would insist that the beginning of each formal service require all in attendance to rise in unison from their seats, hold hands, and joyously, lovingly whisper:

“Permissum Nos Simulatio!”

“Let’s Pretend!”

A collective quest for sanity only becomes credible in honest acknowledgement of the universal proclivity of our species to make stuff up, simultaneously acknowledging one’s own tiresome tendencies to tickle truth in the telling of a tale.

It’s all in how you look at it — all in how you study it.

And share.