Archive for July, 2017

“Terms of His Surrender”

July 30, 2017
WWCK Air Staff -- 1981

WWCK Air Staff (1981) — Michael Moore on Far Right (Only Time Ever)

I sold popcorn with him at the University of Michigan (Flint) student theater when his annual income was less than I paid in taxes. Years later, legal papers estimated his net worth at over fifty million dollars, the bulk of it accidentally earned when Walt Disney chickened out at the last minute and allowed him and partners to acquire, release and distribute a new film Disney had bankrolled. That was “Fahrenheit 9/11” — the highest grossing documentary of all time. Michael Moore had just turned 50.

Mike and I first met in the early ‘70’s when religious leaders in Davison, Michigan were attempting to throw me (“Satan’s Pied Piper”) and my rock concerts out of town. They also wanted to shut down Michael’s “Davison Hotline” – an organization dedicated to helping troubled area teens. It didn’t help that Mr. Moore had just been voted onto the Davison Board of Education at the age of 18, becoming at the time the youngest person ever elected to public office in the history of the United States.

Michael Moore became our “Director of Sunday Programming” on WWCK-FM in Flint for many years, hosting “Radio Free Flint” Sunday mornings with twelve incoming lines ringing off the wall. This is when WWCK became the highest-rated Rock & Roll station in the country. Mike played no small part. I paid him with free airtime to promote his fund raising activities, including sold-out concerts with the late Harry Chapin, who donated all proceeds to “The Flint Voice” – Mike’s alternative newspaper.

In 1987, Michael started working on a movie about Flint, personally handling every aspect of preparation, production and promotion. My major contribution was obtaining some TV credentials from Toledo so he could film the closing of a major Flint assembly line and sending him my personal copy of “Jingle Bells” by The Singing Dogs. This can be heard in the final minutes of “Roger and Me” as a Flint family is tossed out of their home Christmas Eve, brilliantly juxtaposed against a festively attired General Motors Choir singing traditional carols at a lavish corporate banquet in Detroit. Mike thought he might get ”Roger and Me” on “Frontline” if he was lucky. The rest is history.

After “Bowling for Columbine”, which won a 2002 Academy Award as Best Documentary, “Fahrenheit 9/11”, “Sicko”, “Slacker Uprising” and “Capitalism: A Love Story” in 2009, the election of Barack Obama brought about a seeming resurgence, however temporary, of mainstream progressive thought and Michael was no longer the almost singular “voice of the America left” he had inadvertently become.

When I contacted Michael after surprisingly seeing him on MSNBC with Chris Hayes shortly after Donald Trump announced his run for the presidency, Mike said that was his “first time in a live TV studio in years.” Now he’s super charged up, mightily motivated and on the move.

Last Friday, Michael Moore’s first Broadway show, “The Terms of My Surrender” opened for a 12-week run at the 1,018 seat Belasco Theater. Seats are quickly selling out. Additionally underway is a follow-up to “Fahrenheit 9/11” in cooperation with Bob and Harry Weinstein, founders of Miramax. They’ve purchased worldwide rights to “Fahrenheit 11/9”, which will deal with the aftermath of Trump’s election commencing the day after voting ended and the insanity began. Mike also returns to television this fall for the first time since 2000 with “Michael Moore: Live From The Apocalypse” on TNT.

 When you’re hot, you’re hot.

Thanks, Mr. President, for giving my old pal work.

That’s one done, ten million to go.

 

 

“Smokehurst”

July 23, 2017

Mariposa Fire 7:21:17

When Oakhurst turns Smokehurst – things just aren’t the same.

Thank The Lord Mariposa still stands.

Last week’s 75,000+ acre Detwiler Fire brought the first series of smoke shrouded days this season, even Deadwood disappearing at times behind a curtain of heavy, ash-laden haze.

It provided a dramatic reminder that Cal Fire and associated professional responders regularly meet such challenges with speed, accuracy and outstanding endurance in a consistently reliable display of heroic performance. It also offered stark confirmation of recent predictions by fire and police authorities that 2017 may witness the most destructive fire months in California state history.

Along with last winter’s drought-defying precipitation producing abundant fresh fuel, as do a hundred million dead and dying trees, it now seems that formerly helpful and dependable night-time increases in humidity with significantly decreased temperatures have given way to shifting climate conditions resulting in minimal dusk to dawn respite for fire control compared with traditional patterns. This is a big deal. 24-hour work shifts are becoming common.

Media cited numerous acts of selfless volunteerism with strangers lending a helping hand to those they’d never known before. There were countless stories of neighbors helping neighbors, providing food, shelter and clothing at a time of harried need. Some shelters even offered room for evacuated pets and livestock. Many of them are people too!

Being of critical assistance in times of tragic testing often seems to be a reflective, instinctive, intuitive act – the “better angels of our nature” referenced by Abraham Lincoln — urging us to take instant remedial action, often without conscious reflection.

Wildfires are as natural as the wind.

Native Americans were regularly burning parts of their ecosystems going back thousands of years, promoting a diversity of habitats to provide greater stability and security in their lives, but being cautious not to purposely burn when forests were vulnerable to catastrophic conflagration. According to that big “fire hazard dial” on the right side of 41 just before you head into Oakhurst from the south, that is precisely our current status.

We will be living these next few months with possible catastrophe a single spark away. A hastily abandoned campfire, a handful of illegal fireworks, or one carelessly tossed cigarette can explode into a wall of flames just as quickly as a lightning strike, airborne embers or other unavoidable phenomena.

Oakhurst is not new to evacuations. A bit of family strategizing with various contingencies in mind, including alternative planning seems like a fine idea.

It could be worse.

The University of Utah Seismograph Stations report a Yellowstone National Park earthquake swarm has registered 1,284 events since June 12th, including one of 4.5 magnitude June 16th in West Yellowstone. This represents a “notable uptake in activity.”

The Yellowstone Caldera sits on top of North America’s largest volcanic field spreading across an area of 300 miles. While most scientists believe the probability of a major eruption is small, it could blast 240 cubic miles of ash, rocks and lava into the atmosphere, rendering two-thirds of the nation immediately uninhabitable, and plunging the world into a “nuclear winter.”

We don’t need to worry about cold around here yet.

Washington is having a hot summer too.

Exactly 97 years ago this week (July 26, 1920) — cultural critic and iconoclastic journalist H.L. Mencken wrote a column in the Baltimore Sun which included this amazingly prescient quote: “On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of this land will reach their heart’s content at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

 Nudge. Nudge.

Wink. Wink.

I’ll write no more.

 

 

 

“Senior Sex in Oakhurst”

July 16, 2017

Ice+Cream+Truck

 

First of all, relax.

This is a family newspaper.

What follows would be labeled a Walt Disney “G” or earn an old Catholic Legion of Decency rating of A-I for “General Patronage”. Well, maybe an A-II for “Adults and Teenagers”, but probably not an A-III for “Adults”, let alone A-IV for “Adults with Morally Objectionable Parts.” I always wondered if this was an anatomical reference. If so, it probably wouldn’t be a hard guess what might fit that category.

Using Roman numerals seemed to add a certain ecclesiastical cachet.

Times were much more restrictive back then. In the ‘50s, you couldn’t say “pregnant” on the radio. Even Lucille Ball couldn’t describe her condition with that word when she was “expecting” little Ricky in 1952. Another forbidden word was not allowed. S-e-x. Sex.

Here’s who’s having “it” among seniors:

Among High School seniors = 62%

Among College seniors = 57%

Among senior citizens 70 years of age and older = 54% of men and 31% of women.

In fact, The New England Journal of Medicine reports that a majority of older adults who were married or had intimate partners remain active through their 80’s and “a significant number” well into their 90’s.

A comparable study by Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion found somewhat similar results with 43% of men and 22% of women over 70 reporting they regularly engage in sexual activity.

More research by the National Commission on Aging found that women say sex over 70 is more satisfying than that experienced in their 40s. The Senior Citizens Guide stresses that we should erase ”the long-held myth that aging inevitably dampens the desire, and that older people are not interested in or able to have sex.”

Yet sex remains a sensitive topic for all ages — particularly cringe-inducing for the young commenting on behavior of the old.

When I joined a local gym upon turning 50 or so, one of our daughters sternly cautioned me to “not be like all those creepy old men staring at young girls working out.” I made an instant mental note to stash my Playboys in a more secure location. And dump all copies of Penthouse where I left those Hustlers.

Looking at sex from a purely mechanical perspective, it seems silly. Can there be a more vivid illustration of ecstasy ignoring embarrassment? We follow powerfully transcendent instinctive inclinations and gain ultimate pleasure in unqualified surrender. That’s why sex can also lead to potentially dangerous, even criminal behavior.

It’s not control of sex by community consensus, but degrees of repressive restriction that threaten common decency in a democratic society.

Even those of the 10 Commandments in Judaic/Christian/Islamic culture often cited as being sexually prohibitive were nothing more at the time of origination than property laws — in the good old days when almost everyone knew men owned their women.

Many anecdotes about senior sex can now be safely and publicly shared.

Hearing that her elderly grandfather had passed away, little Suzie rushed to comfort her 95 year-old grandmother. When asked what happened, Suzie was told he had a heart attack while they made love that Sunday morning. Horrified, Suzie told her grandmother having sex at such an advanced age was looking for trouble.

“Oh, no, my dear” replied Granny. “Many years ago, we figured out the best time to do it was when the church bells would ring. It was just the right rhythm, Nice and slow and easy. Nothing too strenuous.”

“If that darned ice cream truck hadn’t come by, he’d still be alive today!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Oakhurst Top 10”

July 9, 2017

Yosemite Painting

 

“Should I stay or should I go?” – “Combat Rock” – The Clash (1980)

Eileen and I moved to Oakhurst in November of 2006 to spend more time with daughter Susan and her family. Earlier this year, Susan and Rich decided to head for exciting new high-tech opportunities in Nashville, departing last week with Allison, Asher, Isaac, two cats and two fish. They got there in four days. This leaves our entire immediate family well east of the Mississippi, but not abandoned to strangers.

“Bitsy” and I just love it here. But is this the time to consider geographic transition ourselves? We’re not getting any younger. Or stronger. Or faster.

Perhaps wiser.

With Fresno International Airport right down the hill, we’re still less than a half-day away from closest kin and simultaneously offer a spectacularly attractive destination for those enticed to visit. That’s how I’d start a ‘Top Ten” list of why I want to stick around Oakhurst like industrial strength Velcro. Or Super Glue. Or those two Quesadillas I ate late last night before sliding into bed. Nine more reasons come quickly to mind, listed as a matter of personal priority. See if any click with you.

(9) Cal Fire. Anyone who thinks government can’t work should check these heroes out.

(8) Cool local bars. The Oak Room, Dirty Donkey, Southgate Brewery and Hitching Post head the list. Erna’s is way too fancy for the likes of me.

(7) Wildlife. Herds of Mule Deer, flocks of Wild Turkey, squads of squirrels and coveys of quail abound in these foothills. October brings Tarantula time. Don’t kiss the rattlers.

(6) An active and harmonious political environment allowing for what I call “positive cross pollination.” During election season, almost all of our speakers at monthly meetings of the Oakhurst Democratic Club are Republican candidates. I consider John Pero, Central Valley Tea Party Coordinator, a friend. Folks seem amazed when they see Bill Atwood and I having lunch together at El Cid’s. They’re even more dazzled when Bill picks up the tab.

(5) A solid spiritual base. Virtually every major religious group finds representation in Eastern Madera County, as well as evolving philosophical thought. I am particularly impressed by such prominent Oakhurst originals as Angelo Pizelo and his work with the Emerson Institute, now of nationally renown. Angie always makes me laugh.

(4) Community Clubs and Projects. We’re not a city, suburb, village or town. But for a “Designated Census Area”, we certainly offer a multiplicity of organizations dedicated to addressing specific needs and projects.

(3) Exceptional law enforcement. The California Highway Patrol #456, part of CHP’s Central Division, covers over a thousand square miles of state highways and unincorporated roadways in an around Oakhurst. The Madera County Sheriff’s Office under Sheriff Jay Varney now offers an Oakhurst substation on Liberty Drive to better serve the foothills area. Similarly, District Attorney David Linn has opened a satellite office at that same location to make his services more accessible.

(2) Our wonderful neighbors. We are blessed with friends and acquaintances of all kinds and minds.

(1) Yosemite. Always first and foremost in evaluation must be the stunning, breathtaking beauty of America’s première national park. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite is celebrated internationally for its granite cliffs, crystal streams, dramatically plunging waterfalls, giant sequoia groves, lakes, mountains, glaciers and biological diversity. And here we are with Half Dome in our own backyard. Five million visitors are expected this year.

But we get to stay.

Here in the Misty Mountains. Where the spirits go. Over the hills, where the spirits fly.