Hot Air: Food?

I suppose I should have taken a picture but I’m not one of these people who click every damned thing they see. As George Carlin famously advised before he died, I actually use my memory.

Typical Slice of Cheese.

Anyway, I was getting out of the hot rod yesterday morning. I’d parked in the first spot on the east side of Walnut Street, just below Kirkwood. I put my foot down on the pavement and there it was: an almost perfect slice of some kind of yellow-orange cheese, probably American but quite possibly cheddar. Point is, it either dropped out of some knucklehead’s sandwich or some knucklehead had simply tossed it on the asphalt, for god knows whatever reason.

But get this: the slice of cheese had been run over by a car. There were tire marks on the thing, distorting it a little bit and discoloring it in the pattern of the tread. Yet the slice still retained much of its identifiable overall hue and regular quadrilateral symmetry.

So, let’s recap: a piece of cheese somehow made its way to the pavement and was squished by a metal and plastic machine weighing anywhere from 1800 pounds to two tons. Despite this, an old crank getting out of his car at an hour when he hadn’t had his normal dosage of coffee and was still bleary-eyed could readily peg it as the comestible it once was.

Typical Block of Velveeta™.

Because of that, I’m tempted to say the slice was actually Velveeta™ but, as far as I know, V. doesn’t come in slices. I really wouldn’t know because when it comes to food I only consider edible things as such, and Velveeta™ is decidedly not edible.

I’d like to think the slice came from some McDonald’s or Wendy’s burger, although my experience with those things tells me once the slice of cheese is laid therein, it becomes an inseparable part of the entire unholy mélange. I really have no idea where the slice of cheese came from, only that it had been squished by a car and somehow retained it’s essence.

That slice of cheese, it can be said, was the Rasputin of its oeuvre. Either that or all such slices are able to withstand extraordinary crushing pressure. All I know is it’ll be a long while before a jam a square slice of yellow-orange cheese into my trap again.

Hot Air: War

I got myself involved in a minor kerfluffle on social media today, Veterans Day, 2020.

My sensibilities about war and the military were honed in the late 1960s when I, an unusually aware almost-adolescent, watched the Vietnam War spin out of control and the anti-war protests that followed. I counted myself kindred with those who took to the streets to call for peace even though I was too young to actually take to the streets myself. Since that time, I’ve become even more entrenched in that viewpoint because I’ve delved deeper into the history of that war, not only our participation in it but that of the French in the late ’40s and into the ’50s.

Vietnam.

Even from a purely pragmatic, unsentimental angle, Vietnam was a tragic boondoggle. It couldn’t have been played worse by the American generals and politicians who executed it. That’s not even taking into account the utter immorality of killing so many hundreds of thousands of people for the sole purpose of forcing a country to adopt an economic system we approved of.

I’ve said all along, this holy land has committed a number of mortal sins, among them slavery, the Native American holocaust, and Vietnam.

So I always feel a little out of balance on Veterans Day. I mean, I have scads of friends (real life friends, not just the soc. med. ones) who served in the American military and some who even saw action in Southeast Asia and they are all good human beings. (I’ve weeded the no-so-good human beings out of my life.) Those vets remaining on my friends roster, though, represent a cross section of the pop. that was torn by the call to duty, the wish to believe our country stood for right and good, and the realization that the war could be described as farcical, only a human endeavor that results in piles upon piles of dead bodies and severed limbs can never be trivialized by calling it a farce.

And yet, every single war results in piles and piles of dead bodies and severed limbs, even the “good” wars, the “just” wars. I’ve never fully grasped why we’re so giddy and adoring of people who’ve fought in wars. I suppose I never will.

Anyway, a dear friend (a real life one as well as a soc. med. one) posted a simple line this AM:

Happy Armistice Day.

His point? Let’s celebrate the peace that Veterans Day originally was intended to mark rather than war and warriors. I commented:

More like, Happy Let’s Put Our Weapons Down For About 20 Years Until We Can Develop the Technology and Stoke Our Hatred For Each Other Enough To Go About Killing 60 Million of Our Fellow Human Beings Day.

Another guy jumped in and said we’d all be speaking German if it wasn’t for warriors, etc. It didn’t become particularly contentious — no insults were flung and no one accused anyone else of being an agent of Satan — and I was glad of that. But I was moved to comment and I’ll share it here. I hope it more completely represents my feelings about war and military service:

War is a stinking, rotten, dirty, sick business that decent people sometimes have to engage in. The US entrance into WWII was the turning point for the entire conflict. We chose to side with a country (the USSR) that we viewed as slightly less horrifying than Germany. We also sided with a dying colonial empire (the UK) that was desperate to remain in existence. Neither of these was an easy, straightforward decision. But such is the case in all human affairs. Soldiers aim to turn other soldiers into putrid hamburger. There are no referees or Marquess of Queensbury rules, despite national leaders pretending to honor the Geneva conventions. One of the reasons we were on the winning side in WWII was we had in our leadership (LeMay, Patton, Bomber Harris, etc.) officers who were willing to kill an unspeakable number of people, civilians and children included, in order for us to win. Had we been on the losing side, they — and many others — would have been executed for war crimes. That is simply the way of war. I’m pleased the Allies won WWII. But we must also always remember that the entire war was a tragedy of the highest order. Simply throwing parades and roses at the feet of returning soldiers is only half the story. The other half is a commitment to finding ways to peace, all the while knowing we might have to depend on the most bloodthirsty of our fellow citizens to protect us from bad guys once again. And, as (the original poster) rightly points out, nothing we’ve engaged in since 1953 can correctly be regarded as “just” war so we’re at a point where our soldiers for more than a half century have been fighting unjust wars. I don’t want to throw parades and rose petals for that even though I feel for the people in our military and sympathize with their plight. They are humans, too, and deserve respect.

Like almost all things in adult life, war and warriors, to me, are subjects that engender conflicting, often contradictory, feelings.

Hot Air: The Aum Bomb

I re-read books all the time, especially when, because of depression, discouragement, or the phase of the moon, I find it difficult to concentrate on new stuff. Of which, I might add, I have an awful lot. New stuff, that is. My reading queue stands about as tall as me and, even though I’m bent over by hip arthritis, I still reach an altitude higher than the average bear.

Anyway, I’m just finishing up Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country for the umpteenth time. Bryson‘s perhaps my favorite author; he specializes in wry, witty takes on travel and words, two subjects upon which he’s ruminated in numerous books. Sunburned is his travelogue to Australia, a weird, distant, mysterious, alluring place. He opens the book by telling the tale of the demise of the country’s prime minister in 1967. The PM, a fellow named Harold Holt, went out for a casual walk along the Victoria coast where the Indian and Southern oceans and the Tasman Sea all three seem to collide. Holt got a sudden urge to dive into the surf — and was never seen again.

That’s it. The leader of a world nation jumped into the water and…, well, was no more. His body was never found. Conventional wisdom has it he immediately became dinner for any of a number of toothy predators the moment his head dipped below the surface.

It’s a fate, I’m sure, many of us — me. for one — would befall at least one contemporary world leader who’ll remain nameless.

Australia’s so huge and so empty that extraordinary things happen there and then are quickly forgotten, even things that make the disappearance of the nation’s prime minister seem a trivial side note.

Take, for example, the strange case of Aum Shinrikyo. The name means nothing to anyone under the age of 30. Hell, it likely means nothing to anyone older. Yet, in 1994 and ’95, members of the group garnered worldwide attention when several of them took it upon themselves to release deadly sarin gas in two Japanese cities, first Matsumoto and then Tokyo, killing some 20 people altogether. That the death toll wasn’t many times greater can be attributable only to dumb luck. From 1984 through the next dozen or so years, the gang perpetrated any number of biological and nerve gas attacks and carried out some kidnappings and murders.

Aum was a Japanese doomsday cult led by Shoko Asahara, nee Chizuo Matsumoto, although he preferred to be referred to as the Lamb of God and fancied himself a second Christ. The world, Shoko or Chizuo or Christ II or whatever, had become so irrevocably sinful that it had become time for the prophesied Biblical Armageddon. He envisioned it as a nuclear war launched by the United States and that would engulf the world. The only survivors would be he and those who followed him, natch.

Problem was, he apparently surmised, the US was dragging its feet in getting on with its end times big boom. So he and his gang, numbering about a thousand at the time, opted to push things along with terror acts. They also (I clasp my hands together in prayer as I type this, even though I don’t believe in the practice) may very well have gotten their hands on nuclear material and, in 1993, might have tested a nuclear weapon in the otherwise empty Great Victoria Desert in the state of Western Australia.

Here’s what we know. In late May of ’93, seismologists notice a huge disturbance emanating from a point in that desert. It was so extraordinary, many suspected an enormous meteorite had struck the Earth there but no crater ever was found. The seismological disturbance did not indicate an earthquake and, anyway, a bunch of long-distance truckers and prospectors reporter seeing a brilliant flash, followed at an appropriate remove by a concussive boom.

The evidence, scant though it may have been, pointed toward a nuclear detonation. Lo and behold, the Aum gang just happened to own a big spread adjacent to the point where the world’s seismographs indicated the shake had taken place. And, it must be added, several renegade Soviet nuclear scientists had joined the group.

Eek.

Funny thing is, nobody really cared about the incident. The New York Times in 1997 ran an article, buried deep in an inside section, recounting the incident in the desert, but otherwise no other news agency, including those in Australia itself has bothered with it. The Wikipedia page for Aum doesn’t even mention the affair. Bryson writes: “This is a country… that is so vast and empty that a band of amateur enthusiasts could conceivably set off the world’s first non-governmental atomic bomb on its mainland and almost four years would pass before anyone noticed.”

In the ensuing years, Aum has split and reformed a few times. The founder has been sentenced to death for various crimes as have a dozen other cult members. And — wouldn’t you know it — whatever sects or spin-offs exist to this day, and there are a number of them, are attracting new followers all the time because, as The Japan Times reports, young men who can’t stand the direction society’s headed in and have difficulty finding their place in it “identify with the cult.”

Anthropologists tell us modern humans may have evolved as far back as 300,000 years ago, probably more. Many millennia more. That’s a good long time. And stories like this make me wonder if we Homo sapiens can survive past sunrise tomorrow morning.

Hot Air: It’s People, Not Dirt

Longtime Bloomington city council member Susan Sandberg has found a terrific image illustrating where people live in this holy land and why all those dumb maps that show Democratic voters segregated in tiny little enclaves here and there while Republican voters are spread over enormous tracts of land are, basically, full of shit.

Republicans often refer to those latter-mentioned maps to make the logically insupportable point that these tiny ghettoes of Dems somehow have connived their way into sharing power with the vast coast-to-coast swathes of GOP-ers and Trumpists. And, honestly, those maps do look alarmingly unbalanced. Let’s watch as the map Susan found transforms from a land representation to a population one:

 

Truth is, thanks to the Electoral College and the Republicans’ extremely effective efforts at gerrymandering and voter suppression, that party has garnered power far beyond its numbers. To wit: Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the last eight United States presidential elections. If this were a true one-person, one-vote democratic republic, there’d have been a democratic president for 24 of the last 28 years. And, truth be told, the one prez race the Republicans actually won was the reelection of the incumbent in 2004. People, remember, tend not to like to throw leaders out unless there are dramatic or extenuating circumstances. Plus, we were still involved in two wars at the time, another reason voters wanted to stay the course. Had Al Gore been declared winner thanks to the popular vote in ’00, he’d have been the incumbent next time around and he’d have been the wartime C-in-C. (Of course, if Gore were the boss at that time, the Afghanistan war would have been wrapped to one extent or another without having been left undone by the Iraq war, a strictly Republican gambit.)

Not only that, if one totals all the votes earned by Senate and House candidates, the Dem vote far outnumbers the Republican even though the GOP has run Congress in part and wholly for the last ten years. Democratic candidates for the US Senate, for instance, in 2016 outpolled their Republican rivals by 53.8-42.4 percent, yet the Republicans held a firm grip on that chamber. That same year, Democratic candidates for the House bested their Republican counterparts, nationally, by 49.1-48.0 yet, somehow, the Republicans retained control of the House after that election.

Truth is, this is a Democratic nation.

Then again, throwing a bucket of ice water on this argument is the fact that some 70 million people have voted for Li’l Duce in this year’s election. That’s about 49 percent of the participating populace.

Here’s the biggest truth I’ll share herein: when it comes to President Gag and his fans, I’m baffled.

 

Hot Air: Our Two Faces

The 2020 presidential election is still up in the air as I type this.

Old Joe Biden is about 3 million actual votes ahead of Li’l Duce and leads the incumbent by a 248-214 Electoral College count.

From The Guardian at 4:20 PM EST, Wednesday, November 4, 2020.

Nevertheless, it’s nearly 24 hours after many polls closed and we still don’t know who’ll be taking the oath of office next January. A candidate needs 270 EC votes to win. The actual vote count is relatively irrelevant, something we have to remedy but won’t until a Republican wins the popular vote but loses the EC. Then we’ll see some action.

Anyway, President Gag already has amassed 4 million more votes than he did four years ago. This despite everything he’s done during his term in office: withdrawing from the Paris Accords; quitting the Iran-nuclear pact; dismantling many, if not most, federal agencies; trying to throttle the Postal Service; calling for a return to the darkest days of the nuclear arms race; voiding or annulling hundreds of environmental protections. The insults. The bizarre behavior. The obsessive tweeting. The pussy grabbing. The mocking of the handicapped reporter. The utter lack of respect for John McCain’s prisoner of war experience and the Muslim family’s tragic loss of a US soldier. The comical, if it wasn’t so awful, mishandling of the coronavirus crisis.

Some 67.7 million people at this hour have iterated that they want him as their leader, him as the symbol of America, him to steer the course of this holy land.

Perhaps Old Joe is on his way to victory. The Democrats will keep the House and just may take control of the Senate (although I wouldn’t bet on it).  Even so, more people went for P. Gag than did in 2016.

All this proves one thing: we are a divided nation, almost irreparably so. There are two Americas right now. One that says, beaming proudly, when they cast their gaze upon Li’l Duce, “There goes my leader.” The other, discouraged and fretful, says, “There goes my country.”

Hot Air: A New Perspective

Our long national nightmare may be over and done with after the polls close tomorrow. National? Hell, it’s been a planetary nightmare, for pity’s sake!

Then again, let me tweak the above statement a bit. Tomorrow may signal the beginning of the end of the nightmare, something I’ve been warning about for months. My pal Jeff Isaac cites this piece, making the same point in the conservative-lite website The Bulwark.

The point is even if Li’l Duce gets his well-deserved ass-whipping tomorrow, he’ll still be in office for another 89 days, plenty of time for him to dismantle our democratic republic even more than he has already.

So, to torture the analogy further, for the next two and a half months we may be trying to rouse ourselves out of the the troubled sleep we’ve been in since 2016 even as the gremlins and ogres and monsters and swarms of rats and bees, the falling from an airplane, the drowning in the backyard pool, the being caught naked outdoors, the looming high school semester final you’re not prepared for — all the beastly terrors that torment us as we repose in the arms of Morpheus — continue to flood our half-awake imaginations.

But, beginnings are good. Throwing President Gag’s sorry carcass out of the White House tomorrow at the polls will only be a start but, of course, a journey of a thousand miles…, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I realize I’m about to stun into catatonia the loyal followers of this global communications colossus but the hellish Trump regime just may have done something good for us. Not good in the sense of, say, ending world hunger or curing one or another of the cancers but, like the journey that begins with a first step, even the slightest good is a net positive.

Here’s the good thing: the presidency of one Donald John Trump has put politics in perspective for those of us who reside, metaphorically, on my side of the fence. See, when I first came to this bizarre state back in 2009, the Democrats, the liberals, the progressives and everybody else to the left of Dan Quayle (Hah! Bet you hadn’t thought of that name in decades.) viewed the relatively innocuous likes of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels as the second coming of Joseph Stalin. Then, when Mitt Romney, Barack Obama’s white clone, challenged the incumbent president in 2012, we all gasped in horror that he’d take a page from Pol Pot and turn America into a westernized Killing Field. I’m exaggerating, natch, but not by as much as you might think.

Brethren?

We ran around like chickens sans tetes, worrying about the hell in a hand basket we were surely falling into under the malignant watch of Daniels or the putative reign of Romney. And what of John McCain, who ran the first broadside against Obama in 2008? He was close enough to his opponent on the political spectrum to flash him a subtle wink yet, in our petrified eyes, a win by him would surely have turned this holy land into a tyranny, or at least into another c. 1960s Alabama.

It must be conceded, though, that McCain selected as his running mate an unprepared, incurious, anti-intellectual dingbat of a half-term Alaska governor — and a wannabe beauty queen and aspiring small potatoes TV talking head at that. Sarah Palin was the Republican Party’s failed experiment in creating a franken-candidate, although they did learn from their mistake, bringing us to their successful model, our current president.

And herein lies the aforementioned good thing. Now we know what happens when the American electorate elects on a whim the worst possible person to take the reins of government. We get a vengeful, impulsive, ignorant, corrupt, pathological liar who appeals to all the worst instincts in humanity.

This, my friends, is what we should have been living in terror of for the last 25-50 years. The likes of Mitch Daniels and Mitt Romney were merely guys whose philosophy of governing were different than ours. Yet we shrieked and moaned about them as if they were sexual predators, tinpot dictator wannabes, and Constitutional vandals. Sickos. Terrorists in business suits. Family dynasty progenitors. All of which, BTW, we wound up getting in one package, known unaffectionately herein as Li’l Duce.

My guess is as P. Gag goes down in flames tomorrow, his party (if they have any sense about them at this point, which is a consideration after all) will commence to mend their ways and revert to something resembling a norm.

And, should that occur, mirabile dictu, we won’t have to live in panic at the prospect of every single Republican coming down the pipe. I say this even though I am deeply committed never, ever to vote for one so long as the party refuses to back the ERA, continues to appeal to white supremacists, pretends climate catastrophe hasn’t begun yet, and fights tooth and claw against universal, single-payer health care.

From now on, it is to be profoundly hoped, we won’t view all Republicans as a Stalin, even if their current top dog fancies himself a Putin.

Brothers.

Hot Air: Show’s Over

I’ve been so petrified by the rise and rule of Li’l Duce, fearing a hostile takeover of the US by him and his family, that the only logical outcome of his arrival on the scene escaped me. His people are getting tired of his act. They want to change the channel.

He’s never been anything but a cheap TV star, the 2010s version of Milton Berle. The TV audience ate him up and snickered in everybody else’s faces when he did the most outlandish things. But even his base is falling asleep in front of the TV (that is, except for the radical militia terrorists and the dyed-in-the-wool racists — they’re with him until the end of time). More people tuned in to Biden’s snooze-fest than Trump’s burlesque show. That’s just one piece of evidence bolstering my argument. Another is the long, long, long, long, long long, long lines at polling places across America.

Nobody in my lifetime has driven more people to the polls than President Gag. I’d like to kick them all in their asses for voting for him in the first place in ’16, or opting to sit that election out, but let’s bygones be bygones. We’re seeing a national cancellation of the show.

Hot Air: Freedom & Courage

A couple of thoughts, one each for the concepts of freedom and courage.

First, in this topsy-turvy 2020, the word freedom is bandied about almost exclusively by Right Wingers who want to carry semi-automatic weapons into Subway shops (where they can buy sandwiches made with a substance that at least one country has declared not to be bread) and more of them — Right Wingers, natch — who can’t bear the tyranny of having to wear face masks during a global pandemic.

This is a new paradigm inasmuch as, when I was a pup just coming into awareness of national and world events, the freedom heralders and carolers were almost exclusively on the Left. Republicans weren’t calling for freedom in the 1960s; no, hippies and anti-war protesters and civil rights activists and drug culture aficionados were shouting the word from every rooftop.

Again, in the now, those who agitate for, say, racial equality and marijuana decriminalization rarely, if ever, use the term. It has been snatched and owned by The Other Side.

What Does She Stand For?

The truth is, freedom means everything and anything and, as such, really means nothing. You realize, of course, that every single nation, today and in decades past, has crowed, in so many words, that it is the lone and most vigilant defender of freedom on the globe.

What do you think the architects of the Third Reich told their followers about their nation? That it was a crushing dictatorship? Hell no! Dr. Goebbels and the rest of the Nazi big shots all told their fellow Germans that they were free people, that if push came to shove and war broke out, good Germans would be putting their lives on the line for their own freedom. The government of Putin’s Russia tells its constituents they have freedom. Same with Kim’s North Korea. Everybody’s free in their own country; those who aren’t free, the poor slobs, live elsewhere. That’s a universal on this planet.

American Black people fought overseas in the Philippines, World Wars I & II, and on the Korean peninsula even as, at home, they were yoked under Jim Crow laws, legalized voter suppression, and the rotting, ancient remnants of Reconstruction-era apartheid. Those American Black people told themselves they were fighting for freedom. Perhaps, as I’ve written herein before, they actually believed they were fighting for some vague promise of freedom. No such promise seemed forthcoming for American women — Black or white — in the 1940s, though. They rolled up their sleeves and worked in factories for the cause of freedom (they would have gladly informed you) even though the vast majority of them couldn’t own homes under their own names and were compelled by law to submit to sex with their husbands even if the latter were stinking drunk and/or stinking, period.

So what does freedom mean?

I’ll be damned if I know.

Guts

Here’s the case of an Indiana woman who lost her job because she told a couple of newspaper reporters a truth.

Kimberley Jackson was a discharge planner for NeuroBehavioral Hospital in Crown Pointe. The New York Times was doing a piece on “patient dumping,” the practice of nursing homes to eject patients who are no longer “profitable.” These extended care facilities transport patients to hospital emergency rooms when, for instance, they need care above and beyond the absolute minimum a for-profit corporation is willing to provide or their extended care coverage is running low or even if their personal wealth is becoming, shall we say, insufficient.

The nursing facilities come up with any and all excuses to label such patients as as in need of immediate extraordinary care (they’re too often not) so they must send them to the ER. Once there, the patients are now the hospital’s problem. The extended care facility has effectively washed its hands of them.

Just Leave ’em There.

I suppose the practice makes good business sense but, in terms of human decency and health care, it sucks. The patients find themselves in a limbo, banned by the nursing home and not all all in need of emergency care. What would happen to them? Who knows? Worse, who cares?

Kimberley Jackson appears to have cared.

By the way, being a discharge planner does not imply that Jackson was responsible for people’s bowel, bladder, sputum, and bleeding schedules. Jackson’s job was to help patients who either stayed at her hospital or had visited its emergency room find proper care after they left the place. Hospitals these days run on an assembly line system: Get ’em in, fix ’em up, and get ’em the hell outta here as quickly as possible. That, hospital administrators have determined, is good business. As such there must be some professional in each hospital who helps patients and their families figure out how they’re going to be cared for, properly, once they’re shown the door.

So she’s quite familiar with the plight of people who been evicted from nursing homes and dumped on her hospital’s doorstep.

As such, she told NYT reporters Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Rachel Abrams how her particular hospital responded to the practice. I should say, her former hospital. She was fired for blabbing to the reporters.

Jackson says she didn’t know it was her hospital’s policy for unauthorized employees never to speak with the media about goings-on there. I don’t buy it; everybody who works in a hospital has it pounded into them from day one that they are to STFU when reporters come nosing around. That way, nobody’ll divulge any potentially embarrassing details. Hospitals, being for-profit businesses (even when they label themselves non-profits) have, after all, brands to protect. Those, my friends, too often are viewed as equally vital to a hospital’s interests as the public’s health.

More likely, Jackson was so repulsed by the patient dumping practice that she felt compelled to reveal all to the reporters and damn the torpedoes. Either way, Jackson showed real courage is speaking with Silver-Greenberg and Abrams.

Jackson was a whistleblower. For my dough, whistleblowers have 23 times more guts then a whole platoon-full of semi-automatic rifle-wielding militiamen.

He Can Learn A Thing Or Two About Courage.

Hot Air: Football & TV, A Sacred Union

Just a week ago last night one of this holy land’s cultural touchstones celebrated its 50th anniversary. Hard to believe for a lot of people of my generation (and older) but Monday Night Football first aired on ABC-TV September 21, 1970. Since then the network television colossus has presented somewhere in the vicinity of 700 football games.

Joe Namath Calls the Signals During the First Monday Night Football Game.

Funny thing was, no network really wanted any part of it. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle went begging to the three main networks at the time — CBS, NBC, and ABC — and came away with an empty hat. None of the nets wanted to mess up its regular prime time schedule, especially on a Monday night when middle class America began settling in for the week in front of their TVs after work. ABC in 1970 was the lowest rated of the three networks so Rozelle hammered hard at it. He told ABC honchos he was prepared to sell the idea of prime time football to the Hughes Television Network, an independent entity dreamed up by wealthy loon Howard Hughes who’d envisioned it as a fourth player in the coast-to-coast TV scene. Just a couple of years before, Hughes had tried to purchase a controlling stake in ABC and was rebuffed, leading him to want to stick it to the company. ABC, afraid it might even be overtaken by the nascent Hughes operation, grudgingly signed a contract with the NFL and threw together a trio of booth announcers, a novel idea. for the first game.

One of those announcers was a lawyer from New York City named Howard Cosell, a loud, annoying, tell-it-like-it-is kind of a guy who’d ridden the coattails of a young Cassius Clay. In 1960 Clay (later, Muhammad Ali) won the heavyweight boxing gold medal at the Rome Olympics. Cosell’s announcing of his subsequent professional bouts made him as famous as the fighter. Cosell’s Wikipedia page describes him thusly:

Cosell’s style of reporting transformed sports broadcasting in the United States. Whereas previous sportcasters had mostly been known for color commentary and lively play-by-play, Cosell had an intellectual approach. His use of analysis and context brought television sports reporting closer to “hard” news reporting. However, his distinctive staccato voice, accent, syntax, and cadence were a form of color commentary all their own.

Funny thing was viewers hated Cosell. I mean they despised him. Many Monday Night Football tavern parties turned into Cosell bash-fests. One bar owner in Denver even sponsored contests to allow a weekly winner to throw a brick through the TV when Cosell appeared on the screen.

Ali Attempts to LIft Cosell’s Toupee off His Head.

Monday Night Football creator and executive producer Roone Arledge realized viewers’ antipathy toward Cosell just might draw even more of them. Rather than axe Cosell, Arledge instructed him to be…, well, more himself. The more Cosell played Cosell, the more people tuned in. Eventually, Monday Night Football became the most watched prime time show on television for many years.

It’s a bizarro world story, one that would be inconceivable even a year before it began to play out. But the country had just emerged from the topsy-turvy Sixties, an era when many cherished American institutions were mocked and discarded. So, tens of millions of male football fans — as well as their girlfriends, wives, and sisters — tuned in to see if they could get in on the hate orgy.

Nearly Half of All NFL Fans Are Female.

And that’s another shibboleth Monday Night Football laid to rest — that the gridiron game was solely played for the pleasure of men. Before Rozelle, Arledge, and Cosell, the game was played on Sunday afternoons to a TV audience almost exclusively male. The term “football widow” described women who couldn’t get their husbands to do anything other than park themselves in their dens and watch the Giants or the Bears or the Colts. After the trio worked its magic, football watching became the province of a more balanced gender viewership.

Me? I’ve never given a good goddamn about football, either the pro or the college game. Oh sure, I know who the great stars were and occasionally have enjoyed watching highlights of pigskin wizards like Joe Montana or Lawrence Taylor but ask me who won what game yesterday and I’ll sit there with a blank look on my face.

In fact, The Loved One and I had a tradition every Super Bowl Sunday of driving down to Jasper, Indiana to have a cone at an old-fashioned ice cream shop on the west side of the square there. Sadly, that ice cream parlor — I seem to recall it being named Libby’s — closed down before the 2020 Super Bowl so we’ll have to come up with a new tradition.

Anyway, we could do that because the streets of America are pretty much deserted on Super Bowl Sunday afternoon and evening. It’s as though we have the whole nation to ourselves.

Truth is football is the quintessential American sport. And only the Hallmark Hall of Fame drama anthology program has run longer on prime time television.


Charlotte’s Memoir

Copies of Minister’s Daughter: One Life, Many Lives, by Charlotte Zietlow and me have begun to arrive at the Book Corner. The book’s flying off the shelves so far. Call the store at 812.339.1522 or email me at glabagogo@gmail.com to order your copy today.

And you can always cop an e-book copy via Amazon. But, really, wouldn’t you rather have a good old hard copy in your hands?

Hot Air: All Lies, Natch

At long last, somebody has got ahold of the Orange Baboon’s tax records. Reporters for the New York Times got their hands on the documents and the paper blasted headlines about the revelations therein Saturday.

There’s not a single thing in those records that should shock anybody who’s paid the slightest bit of attention to this man since way before he decided he wanted to become King of the United States. I’d been following his exploits closely since about 1987 when both Spy and Vanity Fair magazines started becoming obsessed with him. And, yeah, he is worthy of obsession because he was, at the time, a big player in New York City’s real estate and high-rise construction rackets and, since 2015, has become — inexplicably — a demagogic hero to tens of millions of Americans. Tens of millions of Americans who, I might add, generally fear, mistrust and detest anybody from NYC, often painting said habitués with an anti-Semitic brush. Hell, Mario Cuomo was an Italian Catholic but much of this holy land viewed him as a sneaky New York Jew.

Strict definitions and subtleties are not strong points among the folks who flock to Li’l Duce like so many flies around a pile of excrement.

In any case, the Trumpists will react to the NYT reports in predictable ways. Here are a few of them:

  • It’s all lies. President Gag himself took that tack within hours after the story was published online. In fact, his public relations firm, Fox News, ran this headline…… while the rest of the civilized world’s news media ran heads saying the records show he is a grifter, a tax evader, a fraud, and hundreds of millions of dollars in hock.
  • Hell, I don’t want to pay taxes; if I had the smarts and the means, I’d do exactly what my president did.
  • Who cares? Nobody’s perfect. Besides, Trump has more important things to worry about, like saving Western Civilization from the brown- and black-skinned, LGBTQ, feminist, marxist, bleeding heart hordes.

Those are three possible reactions. There may be more. It doesn’t matter inasmuch as that 35-40 percent who’ve gone gaga over the Miscreant-in-Chief wouldn’t be swayed if Jesus H. Christ himself came down from heaven and declared Trump to be the devil’s sibling. After all, it’s clear Trump has supplanted for them the son of god as the divinity they gleefully worship.

Eargasms

I’ve been on a music kick of late. A few of things I’ve been playing again and again are a couple of big band ditties from the Glenn Miller Orchestra, I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo and Chattanooga Choo-choo, as well as the theme from’s Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.

The Curb theme first. The song is called Frolic and it was written by an Italian named Luciano Michelini, a film composer who’s based in Rome. The story goes that David heard Frolic in a bank commercial some years ago and decided, because it was light and frivolous, that it’d be perfect for his show. “It just sort of introduces the idea that you’re in for something pretty idiotic,” David said in a panel for the Paley Center for Media in 2009.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly downcast — um, pretty much every day these days — I play a repeating loop of the song that I found on YouTube to get myself to sleep at night. Here’s a snippet of the tune:

Now for the Glenn Miller tunes. Chattanooga, I’ve learned, was the very first gold record ever. It was released under an imprint of RCA Records and sold 1.2 million copies in 1942. RCA initiated the award, presenting it to Miller for the sheer number of discs sold. It wasn’t until 1958 that the Recording Industry Association of America codified the practice, awarding gold records for a million singles sold or a million dollars-worth (wholesale) of albums sold. There are now also Platinum, Multi-Platinum, and Diamond awards, given for records that sell certain bazillions of units.

Both Chattanooga and Kalamazoo were movie tunes, the former featured originally in the Sun Valley Serenade (1941), centered around a bizarre romantic mixup including Milton Berle, John Payne (not Wayne, Payne), Lynn Bari, and Olympic skating star Sonja Henie, and the latter from the 1942 film Orchestra Wives, its cast including Cesar Romero and Jackie C. Gleason (yes, that Jackie Gleason — he went with the initial the first few years of his career) as musicians in the Miller band. In both movies, the Nicholas Brothers dance. If you’ve never seen the Nicholas Brothers perform, do so forthwith and you’ll never even think of Fred Astaire again.

The Nicholas Brothers.

Here’s the thing about the Glenn Miller stuff. The tunes are performed in their respective movies by enormous orchestras. Kalamazoo, for instance, is played by four trombones, five saxophones, four trumpets and cornets, a couple of clarinets, a bassist, a guitarist, and a pianist, with vocals sung by Tex Beneke and the four Imperials. That’s 23 people. And in those days, Miller’s band, as well as those of Bennie Goodman, Fletcher Henderson, Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, Paul Whiteman and many more made their dough primarily by touring. They’d visit every big city and small town in the nation that’d fill a hall for them. They’d travel by train. Imagine the logistics that went into planning such a tour. It’s impossible to imagine carting 23 people around the nation to perform live music these days for a ticket at even a dime less than $200. Yet folks from my parents’ and your grand- and great-grandparents’ generation were able to scrape up the dough when those big bands came to town. Economics, it must be said, have changed.

Anyway, one sour note on Chattanooga: The lyrics go, “Pardon me boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo? Track 29! Boy, you can give me a shine.”

That boy, sad to report, was a black man. Grown men with dark skin were routinely called “boys” back then. And the fellows who ran shoeshine stands in train stations invariably were black men. These verbal atrocities held until well into the 1960s.

The racism in the song surely detracts, mightily, from my enjoyment of it.

 

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