Keyword: Inclusion

An issue came up at one of my civic clubs (the name of which I am withholding) recently. At a meeting in June, the Board voted to change the weekly meeting to include a moment of silence instead of a prayer, which historically was always a Christian prayer that included Jesus.

Some of the members claimed they objected to this change because the board made it without consulting the membership, though most of us knew this wasn’t their real objection.

On July 1, a new Board took office, which included me. We considered this action, and decided that yes, we would put it to a vote of the membership. The president emailed ballots, and at our meeting last week, we voted. The choices were 1. prayer only 2. moment of silence only 3. prayer followed by a moment of silence and 4. a “Faith Moment.”

“Faith Moment was presented by one of our own, Richard Barron,” the president said in her email. “He proposed that the (our club) create an itinerary item called the Faith Moment, in which the president or other member conducting the meeting could call upon any members wishing to express their faith. That member could express their faith in the form of prayer, religious thought, or reading from scripture. This segment of the meeting would be open to and include expressions from any faith or belief system, as long as that expression did not deliberately exclude the faith of other members, or contain hate speech or other inflammatory content, as determined by the President. This segment would be limited to 2 minutes.”

I thought this suggestion hit all the right notes for 2022: diversity, equality and inclusion. Surely we would adopt this, and everyone would be happy. I was ready to accept my Nobel Peace Prize.

Sadly, despite my notion that this compromise would work, it was not to be. Though the vote was close, “moment of silence only” was the verdict. My own piece of brilliance received the fewest votes.

As that was announced, four members immediately claimed they would resign, including one who barked, “how can you have (this club) without god.”

So, sure, I have some ideas about this, so let’s start with the most basic: people who are genuinely afraid of the real world.

The urgent, angry, frightened need to control all functions of society like church doesn’t speak of faith, confidence, or trust, but of insecurity, especially insecurity about the fragile house of cards you truly know is your faith.

That faith isn’t constructed by god, by the way, but for centuries by kings and lords and presidents who want your obedience, and, most importantly, your money.

“Why wasn’t God there that day at Columbine? Because God isn’t allowed in the schools.” ~Actual letter to the editor (Sidebar: just this week I wrote a news story about “Rachel’s Challenge,” a program started in memorial of Rachel Scott, the first victim killed at Columbine.)

I love quotes like this because they are such a blunt admission that god is powerless to stand up to school boards.

So really, the small people were the ones who objected. They have small ideas. They have a small world view. They are the people who are afraid of other beliefs, and especially to have other beliefs in their midst.

The idea that all our institutions have to be your church is a very toxic idea.

Pondering important ideas might best be done over coffee.
Pondering important ideas might best be done over coffee.

The Natural Order of Things

Stop for a minute and think this through.
Stop for a minute and think this through.

In a public setting recently, someone said they were, “a Christian first, a family man second, a countryman third, and a member of this group fourth.”

His assertion was intended to express his life’s priorities, and I understood his point, but I don’t agree that you have to put them in an inflexible order.

If I said I was a journalist first, what if I arrived on the scene of a tragedy I am covering for my newspaper, but was the first on the scene? This has, in fact, happened to me on more than one occasion, and in that situation, I was a humanitarian first and a journalist second.

On several other occasions, I had to set aside my newspaper duties to help my wife. In that instance, I was a husband first and a journalist second.

What I’m unpacking here is that while we can define ourselves as we want, it’s not always helpful to remain stubbornly, even anti-socially, locked into such a hierarchy.

And of course I could stomp all over this person’s assertion with, “I am an atheist first,” which in some instances is true, but in others it’s damaging to the greater good.

In group settings, I have always politely and respectfully bowed my head and waited for prayers or pledges or songs to end, and I was never threatened by their presence or what they advocated, even though it was advocacy of some things I consider untrue and sometimes ridiculous.

Maybe it’s tribalism. Maybe it’s fear of change. I hope that those who chose to remain rigid or closed-minded or afraid will one day see that the road to freedom isn’t paved with flags or salutes or doctrine, but with compassion.

Some sage advice: the way to truth is decidedly NOT to deny all other perspectives.
Some sage advice: the way to truth is decidedly NOT to deny all other perspectives.

The Cultural Poison of 1970s Television

There is a brilliant scene in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. The character of Rob (who is also called Max) played by Tony Roberts, has invited Woody’s character Alvy Singer (who is also called Max) to sit in on a television post-production session of Rob’s show. Rob gives instructions to the technical director about where to add laughs and what kind of laughs to add…

“So Charlie, give me a good laugh here. A little bigger. Give me a tremendous laugh here. Now give me a medium size chuckle here, and then a big hand.”

We see Alvy begin to feel sick.

What did we learn as we grew up watching television in the 1970s?

  1. That it was okay to tell your wife to shut up, thanks to Archie Bunker constantly telling his wife to “stifle it.”
  2. That insults are the best way to deal with everything, as in “up your nose with a rubber hose” from Welcome Back Kotter, or Don Rickles calling everyone a “hockey puck.”
  3. Best put-down/comeback ever? “Heeeeey. Sit on it!”
  4. Who thought it was funny to call someone a “jive turkey”? It was something white people thought made them sound black, even though it didn’t.
  5. Three minutes into any “variety show” from the 1970s reveals not only laugh track, but applause track, and it’s very clear that those who created it weren’t trying very hard.
  6. The Brady Bunch Variety Hour’s introduction is enough to make you want to drop your television down an elevator shaft.

Entertainment has an interesting, sometimes destructive role in Western culture.

Part of what poisoned the waters of television is the inherent opposition of its desire to be vulgar vs its inability to use coarse language.

Taken as the main source that raised me (my sister and I were latchkey kids), television sent me to school with the idea that I needed to be quippy and shallow, that if I was sarcastic enough, people, and especially girls, would like me, and, of course, it didn’t work. Since I have a nearly-eidetic memory, I still cringe when I think of all the stupid things that came out of my mouth as far back as seventh grade. I wish time would erase those words, and, thankfully, it will.

Then. Wow. Then I was surfing through Amazon Prime videos, looking for something to put me to sleep, when I saw The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. Hey, I laughed at this when I was 12, so why not… uh. Wait. The Bob Hope roast includes Flip Wilson, Jimmy Stewart, Howard Cosell, Jack Benny, General Omar Bradley, Phillis Dyller, Milton Berle, Neil Armstrong, Rich Little, Ginger Rogers, Billy Graham, Johnny Bench, Foster Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Nipsey Russell, Sugar Ray Robinson, Mark Spitz, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Henry Kissinger, John Wayne, and Don Rickles.

Ho. Ly. Sh!t.

Of all those names, only Rich Little and Johnny Bench are alive today.

The whole thing makes me want to vomit in terror.

The color looks wrong today because 1970s television had an entirely different idea of who we were.
The color looks wrong today because 1970s television had an entirely different idea of who we were.

The Chaos of Personal Bureaucracy

With a nice three-day Memorial Day weekend ahead of me, I was feeling very ambitious about working on the house this morning, continuing my project of cleaning and organizing.

These fans help keep me cool enough without having to make the whole house as cold as a meat locker. They get surprisingly filthy surprisingly quickly, so I clean them out with high-pressure air from my compressor in the garage.
These fans help keep me cool enough without having to make the whole house as cold as a meat locker. They get surprisingly filthy surprisingly quickly, so I clean them out with high-pressure air from my compressor in the garage.

I wanted to make beans, but the kitchen was filthy. As I cleaned the kitchen, I knocked down once of the lights under the cabinets, which I then had to re-hang.

I wanted to put my new lamps in the bedroom, but discovered a mess of wiring under the bed, which I then needed to vacuum because so much dust has accumulated.

Sidebar: an ex-friend of my wife’s sometimes talked Abby into buying things that weren’t really Abby’s style. One such item was a bedroom set that included a huge, poofy comforter with matching pillow cases, and nightstand lamps with long, tacky, hanging chains. Together, they made the bedroom look like an 80’s prom dress.

Then I found the fan I used next to the bed was dusty inside, so I needed to use the air compressor blow it out. Then I realized all the fans in the house needed to be blown out. Then as I unplugged one of the fans, I discovered I needed to move a file cabinet to get the the plug, and discovered an epicenter of dust and spiders. After gathering them and taking them outside, I found the hose to the compressor was hopelessly tangled in the lawn mower.

I wanted to vacuum the whole house, but found I needed to take a couple of pieces of furniture out to the garage, but then found I didn’t really have a place to put them out there.

This all comes down to me, of course. I own that every frustrating little obstacle is of my own making.

For the record, the beans are delicious.

I got two small, smart-looking night stand lamps for less than $30 on Amazon. They include two front-mounted UBS charging ports.
I got two small, smart-looking night stand lamps for less than $30 on Amazon. They include two front-mounted UBS charging ports.

“Dear Abby”

Abby walks down to meet the neighbors on beautiful summer evening. I love this image.
Abby walks down to meet the neighbors on beautiful summer evening. I love this image.

I had lunch in Ardmore yesterday with Abby’s daughter Chele and her husband Tom, who were in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to look for a house, as they are moving there from Baltimore in July. It was great seeing them, and we all hope their move puts them on the north side of the metro area so meeting for lunch regularly like this will be this easy.

Later, one of my longest-time friends Jamie and her husband Ian came by to get my six-burner propane grill, an item Abby was super-proud to have brought home to me, and one with which we made some great meals. But I don’t use it any more, and Jamie and Ian will, since they entertain all the time.

The six-burner propane grill sits in the driveway in April 2020.
The six-burner propane grill sits in the driveway in April 2020.

While they were here, we poked around in the garage for a while, where Jamie decided it was just too chaotic.

This was the scene earlier this week in my garage.
This was the scene earlier this week in my garage.

Jamie plopped down on the garage floor and started organizing.

It doesn't really show, but Jamie did tons of organizing, including freeing up shelf space to eventually hold stuff I want to keep. She even offered to help me host a garage sale.
It doesn’t really show, but Jamie did tons of organizing, including freeing up shelf space to eventually hold stuff I want to keep. She even offered to help me host a garage sale.

In the mean time, Ian got interested in a console radio/phonograph that Abby had purchased years ago as a piece of furniture, and was able to get it to come on and receive one very close radio station.

Ian was able to get the this pile of vacuum tubes and dust mites to tune in a radio station.
Ian was able to get the this pile of vacuum tubes and dust mites to tune in a radio station.

Last week in my cleaning efforts, I found a 1/4-size Moleskine notebook with journal entries by Abby from March 2004 until the day we got married in October 2004. The notebook itself was mostly empty, so I decided to use it to make notes about what our marriage was like in the form of letters to her … “Dear Abby.”

I was also aware that she’d written more journal entries than these. After Jamie and Ian left, I did some more cleaning, and found a ½-size hardback journal with entries in it starting on January 31, 2003…

“I’ve started dating Richard Barron. It is so great it’s scary.”

Yes, it was, Abby. Yes, it was.

As I was contemplating all this, the song My Tears Are Becoming a Sea, by M83, shuffled past, and it fit so well.

“I’m slowly drifting to you
The stars and the planets
Are calling me
A billion years away from you
I’m on my way.”

I miss her today.

Abby and I pose for a self portrait on the anniversary of our first date, January 17, 2004. It was on this occasion that we decided to get married, and it stands as our engagement day. "One year with Richard," she wrote. "I met Richard at his apartment. He had candles, wine, and a gift for me... great romantic evening."
Abby and I pose for a self portrait on the anniversary of our first date, January 17, 2004. It was on this occasion that we decided to get married, and it stands as our engagement day. “One year with Richard,” she wrote. “I met Richard at his apartment. He had candles, wine, and a gift for me… great romantic evening.”

The Potential

Yes, I am still going through stuff, stuff and more stuff as I clean out the house.

In this image, four "Pocket CD-R" discs sit on a normal-sized compact disc. I originally bought these for Abby because she drove a very small two-seat Toyota MR-2, and these discs fit perfectly in her center console. Buying blank media like discs, and later solid-state storage devices, felt very much like buying paper or film, for the same reason: I would be creating music-mix Pocket CDs!
In this image, four “Pocket CD-R” discs sit on a normal-sized compact disc. I originally bought these for Abby because she drove a very small two-seat Toyota MR-2, and these discs fit perfectly in her center console. Buying blank media like discs, and later solid-state storage devices, felt very much like buying paper or film, for the same reason: I would be creating music-mix Pocket CDs!

There certainly is a lot of scrap paper, everything from canceled checks from when my late wife Abby and her first husband ran Stuckey’s Restaurants in the 1970s, to spiral notebooks intended for a class or a project that ended up with just one sheet written in them.

The number one paper product that needs to be disposed is old books, mostly pulp fiction in paperback form. I am finding most of them stored in cardboard boxes in the garage or the shed. The titles look tempting, but the dust mites and spider eggs do not, so almost all of that goes to the Ada Recycling Coalition/City of Ada Recycling Center on 12th Street.

Handling all this paper, some of pristine, summons in me a feeling of potential, of something great waiting to be created by writing or drawing. Part of that feeling is summoning me to do that writing.

I used to get that exact same feeling when my job was a film and print affair, and my monthly supply order would arrive. I would unpack boxes with 1000 sheets of Kodak Ektamatic print paper, 1200 feet of Kodak Tri-X Pan Film, gallons of developer, activator, stabilizer, and fixer. In my hand these raw materials would becoming something meaningful, something we could all share in my newspaper.

I found this cell phone in a box in the rafters above the garage in my house. It's likely this one hadn't even been charged or turned on since about 1999. I hate to see sophisticated technology like this add to the landfills and subtract from our raw materials supplies, but I sure don't have an answer to that problem.
I found this cell phone in a box in the rafters above the garage in my house. It’s likely this one hadn’t even been charged or turned on since about 1999. I hate to see sophisticated technology like this add to the landfills and subtract from our raw materials supplies, but I sure don’t have an answer to that problem.

Also as the clean-out continues, I am finding stuff I had no idea was even present in my home, like a cell phone from around 1999, and right next to it, a Blockbuster Rewards card. Those brought about some memories of life just a generation ago, when phones were just phones, and seeing a movie at home meant going to a video store like Blockbuster or Hastings and shopping for the evening’s entertainment.

All this activity is meaningful to me. It emphasizes the need to understand that Earth only has so many trees and so much iron and so much copper, and that we are using our resources too fast, through an industry centered around the idea that excess equals success.

So when I pull out a notepad or a storage box or a container of screws in the middle of the big clean-out, and I pause to ask myself, remind myself, to recycle it all, in one way or the other.

I found bunches of untouched notebooks, planners, notecards, sticky-notes, and so on in the past couple of months, and though I could recycle them like I did the old books, this media means something to me. It means I might make something with it, like a poem or a story or even a letter to a good friend.
I found bunches of untouched notebooks, planners, notecards, sticky-notes, and so on in the past couple of months, and though I could recycle them like I did the old books, this media means something to me. It means I might make something with it, like a poem or a story or even a letter to a good friend.

Why I Don’t Want to Be “That Guy”

A vial of cyanocobalamin, vitamin B12, a syringe of B12, and some B and C vitamin tablets sit on my bathroom counter tonight.
A vial of cyanocobalamin, vitamin B12, a syringe of B12, and some B and C vitamin tablets sit on my bathroom counter tonight.

Today would have been my wife Abby’s 72nd birthday. Since she died just ten days ago, I’ve had a ton of stuff to do, and another ton of stuff on my mind.

I shared my thoughts about her birthday on Facebook, saying, “I promise I won’t be that guy who gets all nostalgic with every holiday and anniversary, but this one snuck up on me…”

Almost everyone told me it was okay to “be that guy,” or be anyone I want, as if I was telling them I wouldn’t be boring them with endless moroseness or tedious old news, but the truth is I was saying it to myself.

I don’t want to be the guy who was crushed by grief over my wife’s death. I want to be the guy who gets up in the morning and sees the sun shining a little brighter because she was here with me for nearly two decades. I want to be the guy who smiles more and says hello more and does a better job because of the love Abby and I shared.

I am also hearing (and seeing via technology) a lot of people asking me if I am okay. Yes, I am okay. I am not numb or dead inside, and I have no sense of regret or unfinished business. It is true that my body is responding to this process, and I am feeling an uptick in the little things, like tendonitis in a few of my joints due to my job and my age, and I recognize that big emotional changes are indivorceable from physical changes. “The body knows.” I am responding as I always have, with heat, stretching and exercise, and Tylenol when my jaw clinching gives me a headache.

So, I am taking care of myself. I am busy and optimistic. I am eating and sleeping. I am talking when I need to talk. An aside to this is that tonight I decided to use Abby’s prescription injectable vitamin B12. (I got really good with needles in the 1990s when I was giving myself allergy shots.) I don’t think I am vitamin deficient in any way, and I believe that diet is always the best way to address potential nutrient deficiencies, but the B12 is already in the medicine cabinet, and it won’t hurt me to use it.

So let me leave you with this heartwarming story of love to the end: when Abby was in nursing care, I visited her every day. When she was well enough, I’d pile her into a wheelchair and we’d go for a stroll, sometimes with Summer the Chihuahua in her lap. Sometimes she would ask me for a Coke, a drink she associated with growing up. On one occasion, the vending machine was out of Coke, so I went to the corner store to get one, where I found a bottle of Starbucks’ frappuccino, which I often brought home to her, and bought it, too. When I rounded the corner coming into her room, her smile was irrepressible, and as she drank it, she looked so happy. “This is so good,” she told me. That was about a week before she died.

Sometimes all we need is a little something that helps us feel good.
Sometimes all we need is a little something that helps us feel good.

Movie Mistakes

Often when watching movies, I will simultaneously look up the background of them on Internet Movie Data Base (IMDB), or, if the film has guns, the Internet Movie Firearms Data Base (IMFDB).

I did so recently when I was rewatching the 1995’s excellent Heat, starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. It has a lot of interesting firearms in it, and I wanted to learn about them.

What I found, however, was an interesting mistake, and one that I see over and over in movies about crimes and cops: a shot showing us a signature rifle muzzle device also happens to show us two police scanners. One of them, the top one, is a Radio Shack Pro-2030. The display on it reads 000.0000, meaning it was never programmed, or it was reset at some point and never reprogrammed. Either way, it isn’t working.

The lower scanner, a Radio Shack clone of a Uniden 500 UBC9000XLT (Probably the
Realistic Pro-2036.), displays 470.5375, which is the correct frequency for Los Angeles Countywide police dispatch.

Now you know.

This shot shows a combination of an accurate depiction and a glaring mistake. I actually owned both of these radios and one time or another.
This shot shows a combination of an accurate depiction and a glaring mistake. I actually owned both of these radios and one time or another.

 

Easy Little Things

Even reflecting on the obvious can bring us to unexpected conclusions.
Even reflecting on the obvious can bring us to unexpected conclusions.

I had my first successful nap in 10 days.

Despite being tired and needing to rest, when I had the Rona, lying down often resulted in a shift in my head and chest mucus, prompting yet another coughing fit, so napping was impossible, and sleeping at night was tough.

Today, though, I balled up in the living room couch quite cozily, and dove into a hard, welcome nap.

The first thing I dreamed was that Abby was there with me, as simple as that. I could feel her breathe.

Then the dreamscape shifted. At first, I was convinced that I had to accomplish something like answering a riddle, and if I got it even partially wrong, all the consciousness of the universe would vanish with no hope of being restored.

Next, I was trying to escape some kind of a plot to end the world. Mackenzee Crosby  and I were forced into a maze of trickery and exploration as we probed through streets that were sometimes made of asphalt, and sometimes made of cotton candy. We eventually realized that the plot was to flood the world.

Rounding a corner into a child’s room, we see millions of white and blue balloons floating around us. The white ones are hydrogen, and the blue ones are oxygen, and at the given time, they would collide and combine into water, along with, I am told by an explanatory video, hundreds of light sabre duals fought with blue and white fluorescent  light bulbs.

At an opera we are led into the basement through a trap door, where we enter a room made entirely of shiny brown leather. We see a fat man in a leather bed, where I sit and give him counseling for his depression. At the session ends, I pull a straight razor from a cubby in the side of the bed and say, “So I guess you won’t be needing this, now.”

I look up to realize the watering has begun. Balloons are colliding and water is rising. We escape through a street-level window, Mackenzee pulling me through at the last possible second. We are in an alley at a biker bar. I see children who have obviously gone insane. The water continues to rise.

How much of our perception depends on our perspective?
How much of our perception depends on our perspective?

The Arches Connundrum

I read just today that Arches National Park  will implement a temporary, pilot timed entry system “to help manage traffic and improve visitor experiences, from April 3 to October 3, 2022.”

I shot this Delicate Arch image in Arches National Park on our 10th anniversary, October 12, 2014. I was at the trail head 90 minutes before sunrise, and it was cold out, so I had the place entirely to myself.
I shot this Delicate Arch image in Arches National Park on our 10th anniversary, October 12, 2014. I was at the trail head 90 minutes before sunrise, and it was cold out, so I had the place entirely to myself.

I wrote about this issue once before (link), but today I want to be a little more thoughtful.

The National Park system is under stress right now, and I don’t know how much of this is the fault of photographers like me tempting photographer wannabes to go to the sites they see on the web, and how much of it is just the nature of a growing population becoming more mobile, and more hooked in by technology.

There are a lot of people in our National Parks these days, but the parks belong to all of us, not just self-righteous photographers and granola nuts.
There are a lot of people in our National Parks these days, but the parks belong to all of us, not just self-righteous photographers and granola nuts.

My personal National Park experience has mostly been much better in terms of crowding and all that entrails because I am very much a cold-weather person who dislikes the heat, and have usually visited in colder months, often very early in the day. That includes our trip to Arches in 2004 to get married.

Another factor that probably leads to more crowding in the spring and summer are school schedules. You can only take your kids to the Grand Canyon when they are not in school. I don’t have kids, though Abby and I were guardians of a teenager for a while.

When I really thirst for the wilderness, I imagine higher, harder, and farther than most people. The crowds are chatter and clutter, and I yearn to be alone. Also, I don’t get inspired to travel and explore from sources like Instagram or Tumblr. My main source of inspiration is actually paper maps.

This April 2015 Grand Canyon image spells out the less-appealing side of the popularity of our National Parks.
This April 2015 Grand Canyon image spells out the less-appealing side of the popularity of our National Parks.

Just as an aside: when I actually looked at Instagram for pictures of Delicate Arch, the location where Abby and I got married in 2004, I wasn’t particularly impressed. I guess that might be because I have been there many times, and it has become less-surprising to me.

If there is anything missing from my Delicate Arch portfolio, I would say it is either at night with a star field behind it, or with snow on the ground. In either case, about a thousandy-grillion other photographer have these.

One of the comments about Delicate Arch I found in my Instagram search was, “If you ever get the chance to visit Arches, it’s an empowering life event that you’ll never forget!” I agree that you’ll never forget, but how, exactly, is making the relatively easy hike to a popular rock formation “empowering”?

Maybe when it comes to our National Parks, Abby and I were just lucky that we came along when we did, before their explosion in popularity.

Everybody deserves a chance to see the wonders that our National Park system protects, but protecting them has to be a higher priority, since once they are damaged or gone, there’s no getting them back.

You host is silhouetted against a post-dusk sky in the Windows section at Arches National Park in March 2011. (Photo by Robert Stinson)
You host is silhouetted against a post-dusk sky in the Windows section at Arches National Park in March 2011. (Photo by Robert Stinson)

The Utopian

40 years ago, I was a freshman college student at the University of Oklahoma. I had yet to buy my first Nikon camera. I lived in Adams Center, the older of the “tower” dorms at OU. My roommate was Jeff, who had switched rooms, without being invited or even asking, with the kid I was assigned to live with at the beginning of the semester.

My friends and I had some distorted priorities. We were way too invested in audiophilia, the devotion to “hi-fi” stereo and all it entailed. We spend way too much money on cassette tapes – sidebar about that here (link).  We stayed up way too late at night. We skipped way too many classes.

But today I am talking about Jeff’s raison d’etre, the band Utopia.

By start of 1982, he had a tinted banner at the top of the windshield of his beloved (more so than any human) Pontiac Trans Am that said “Utopian.”

His parents correctly called him out about this, but he, and we, were loathe to listen. We knew it all, we thought, and parents are just old people who just wanted us to be “normal.”

He and several other friends also had rebel flag front license plates (though I did not). In the 2020s, most of us recognize what this actually represents and how offensive it was, but to Jeff and his ilk, it represented freedom and rebellion, not racism.

I never enjoyed much of Utopia, formed by Todd Rundgren in 1973. Whole albums of theirs seemed unlistenable to me, though I was able to cull out a few songs I kind of liked: Love Is the Answer [immediately covered by England Dan and John Ford Coley], The Road to Utopia, Set Me Free, Overture: Mountain Top and Sunrise/Communion With The Sun, and Singring and the Glass Guitar (An Electrified Fairy Tale).

Overall, however, Utopia suffered from what too many bands do: it wasn’t very musical. Most of their tunes scratch by semi-tunelessly, striking no pleasure centers in the brain or conjuring empathy.

And although Todd Rundgren couldn’t sing, I liked much of his solo work: Hello It’s Me, I Saw the Light (a song that, for me, is about Abby), Can We Still Be Friends, and practically all of his albums Healing and Hermit of Mink Hollow.

When Jeff and I were roommates in 1981, we quickly learned to hate each other’s musical tastes. His Utopia decidedly clashed with my Pink Floyd, James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg, Phil Keaggy, and so on.

The question for me, though, has always been: why was Jeff so mentally and emotionally obsessed with Utopia? Jeff owned close to 100 record albums when we were roommates, but I can’t seem to remember any other band he liked. It makes him seem shallow and single-minded, like Rush Guy (link).

By January 1982, Jeff flunked out of college and moved back to Lawton. He killed himself in May. You can read about that year and Jeff’s suicide in an entry I called That Dark Season Underground (link).

Allen, Jeff and I pose for a photo on the night the three of us had a barbecue at my parents house in Lawton, Oklahoma, in August 1981, as a college going-away party. The thing that intrigues me the most about this photo isn't the pose (although it is noteworthy that Jeff took those kinds of chances all the time), but that I have no recollection of owning a "Boomer Sooner" belt buckle.
Allen, Jeff and I pose for a photo on the night the three of us had a barbecue at my parents house in Lawton, Oklahoma, in August 1981, as a college going-away party. The thing that intrigues me the most about this photo isn’t the pose (although it is noteworthy that Jeff took those kinds of chances all the time), but that I have no recollection of owning a “Boomer Sooner” belt buckle.

Why, Internet, Why?

Is this all that's left of self-perception?
Is this all that’s left of self-perception?

Lately the internet has been hocking wet loogies on my cupcake and telling me it’s frosting.

Most recently is the idea that every page … every page … had some kind of delayed pop-up, mostly intended to get me to sign up for updates. Usually there is no “No Thanks” button, just a tiny, hard-to-see “X” in the corner of the box.

The pages are mostly alike, too. Title, share buttons, long, lengthy, long YouTube video that restates what you are about to read, and a comments section in which nurds tell us what idiots we are.

Every time, the YouTube video takes 17 minutes to tell us 35 seconds worth of information.

This level of commercialized crap must be working or it would go away, so who is signing up for free updates at “How to Sit Down”?

No wonder you’re not getting my emails. You have 3400 unread emails from “The Best Way to Cut Up Cabbage.”

Even worse are the pages that claim they will teach you how to burp your baby. “Step one,” the article will say, but when you get to the end of the paragraph, it tells you to click to the second page, and so on.

Do these pages really need us to look at 400 ads for baby blankets? Can’t it just say, “Hold your baby on your shoulder, put gently on the back, wait for burp. You’re done.”?

No, website, I don't want to sign up. Also, I was reading when you popped up. If you'd done that in person, I would have smacked you.
No, website, I don’t want to sign up. Also, I was reading when you popped up. If you’d done that in person, I would have smacked you.

Unbelief Leads to Eternal Damnation

This item originally came to me as a letter to the editor, but we didn’t publish it. I share it here because, res ipsa loquitur… “the thing speaks for itself.”

Unbelief Leads to Eternal Damnation

Unbelief in God the Creator dooms an individual to going to Hell and later to the Lake of Fire.  Two horrific places where no one should want to go.

Yet too many people at this present time seem to be completely ignorant of the existence of such terrible places, and of the fact that unless they repent of their sins and seek God they will spend eternity there.  Under continuous torture!

We live in a time when information abounds, and the greatest communication facilities exist, and yet Humanity has failed to inform the masses about God Almighty, and of His kingdom and his authority over Heaven and Earth.

His command was that each generation was to teach each new generation about his creation of Heaven and Earth, and His giving life to Humanity, and all livings things.  And to remind us that “nothing is impossible to God” who has “absolute power” over everything.

God demonstrated this awesome power when He freed Israel, his chosen nation, from Egypt, drowned their Army, and then sustained the two million or so nation for forty years in the desert.

The world disobeyed and has failed to teach the new generations again and again.

America too has failed to teach the Holy Bible, “the Word of God.” The most important book in the world has been outlawed to teach in public schools by Supreme Court Judges who are in direct disobedience to God.

Just like they were disobedient when they approved of Same-Sex Marriage and other abominable acts which go against God’s just laws.    

Disobeying God has through the ages resulted in God finally punishing or judging individuals and nations.    

God has foretold that His creation will reject his ever-lasting love, and also His plan for salvation, and that He will destroy the wicked at a time which only He knows.  That time is called “The Tribulation.” 

Judging by how wicked humanity has become many now believe that time is near!

Man, for his sake, must realize that our mortal life is short, and that we all have an appointment with death, and then the “judgment.” And as Jesus told Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

In other words, we cannot go to Heaven unless we have been “born again.”  When a person is “born again” he/or she receives the gift of “Eternal life” from God.  Then upon death angels will escort them instantly to Heaven.             

The “Word of God” tells us it is God’s will that “none should perish.”  But it also tells us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  God said, “without blood there is no remission of sin.”

Therefore, God’s plan for salvation included the Holy Ghost overshadowing the acquisitioning Mary, implanting the Word of God in Mary, and producing the holy thing (baby) to be born to be called the “Son of God.”  Because of “the will of God” “the Word was made flesh” and baby Jesus was born, “and “dwelt among us,” “and we beheld his glory.”

At the appointed time, Jesus, “the Son of God”, “the Son of Man,” demonstrated the “Powers of God” to show “God was with us” on earth.  He raised the dead, gave site to the blind, healed the sick, gave his life for our sins, by crucifixion, was buried, and on the third day was resurrected.  He was seen on earth forty days before returning to Heaven.

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:17).  THERE IS NO OTHER WAY TO HEAVEN!

Thoughts about Dan Fogelberg

As the years have gone by, I have made a mental note of prominent people, many celebrities, who died at a younger age than I am now, 58 as I write this. Steve McQueen and Michael Jackson were 50. Frank Zappa and Christopher Reeve were 52. Jim Henson and John Denver were 53. John Ritter, Peter Sellers, and Michael Landon were 54. Steve Jobs and Linda McCartney were 56. Prince, Patrick Swayze, and Humphrey Bogart were 57. George Harrison and Andy Warhol were 58.

And Dan Fogelberg was 56.

Recently his widow Jean Fogelberg  shared “All the Time in the World,” (later removed), a serial memoir, on their website, and I read each installment as she published it each week, curious both about the life of the man whose music I admired, especially when I was in college, but also about what it must have been like to get sick and die at the young age of 56. In the midst of reading this, I wrote her a short, frank email:

Feb. 2, 2021

Dear Jean,

My wife Abby and I love to travel. We got married in Moab, Utah, at Arches National Park. Between our home in Oklahoma and Moab, there is New Mexico, which we love, and Abby and I are especially fond of the Santa Fe area.

In October 2019, we drove up to Pagosa Springs for our 15th anniversary vacation, and in our conversation I said, “I think Dan Fogelberg lived around here somewhere.” It sent me down the path of talking about his music, how I discovered it, and where it took me.

This is one of my images from the San Juan Riverwalk in Pagosa Springs, Colorado in October 2019. In the distance is Squaretop Mountain, just north of the massive Ranch that was once home to musician Dan Fogelberg.
This is one of my images from the San Juan Riverwalk in Pagosa Springs, Colorado in October 2019. In the distance is Squaretop Mountain, just north of the massive Ranch that was once home to musician Dan Fogelberg.

My first experience with the music of Dan Fogelberg was in 1979 when I was in high school, when my first girlfriend Tina decided “Longer” would be “our song.” I didn’t care for it much, but she was young and sentimental, so it fit, as I expect that song did for a lot of kids of that era.

In January 1982, Tina and I saw Dan Fogelberg in concert at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Oklahoma, when I was a freshman at the University of Oklahoma. The 11,000-seat facility was standing room only. The thing I most remember about the show was that Tina wanted to hear “Longer,” and when he did play it, he insisted on silence from the audience, so when someone would “woo-hoo” from the seats, he played around the intro again until everyone shut up.

This is my first girlfriend Tina, whose real name was Yvonne.
This is my first girlfriend Tina, whose real name was Yvonne.

Those days were so naive for me. I was learning so much, but it was uncontained, chaotic, sophomoric. I was building a philosophy, but at the same time I was devoting too many hours to hi-fi stereo, fast cars, staying up late and blowing off class. In April 1982, a close friend, Debbie, died in a car crash, and in May, my former college roommate Jeff shot himself in the head. Interesting times.

I listened to a lot more Fogelberg in college than I had in high school, and his work, especially the early work, had an influence on me. If I had to pin it down, I’d say 1977’s Nether Lands was his strongest album.

I was also a devoted Pink Floyd listener, and was discovering Kansas, Phil Keaggy, James Taylor, Todd Rundgren, Journey, Simon and Garfunkel, Alan Parsons, more.

It would be decades before I expanded into genius like Brian Eno, the Cocteau Twins, and This Mortal Coil, and years later I would follow the downward spiral of Nine Inch Nails. It all points to the powerful influence of music.

But back to Santa Fe. I got a big kick out of your description of living in and around the Plaza, and recognizing every landmark you mentioned. I even have a nice image of Abby and her Chihuahua Sierra in Burro Alley.

Abby walks her Chihuahua Sierra along Burro Alley in Santa Fe in 2016.
Abby walks her Chihuahua Sierra along Burro Alley in Santa Fe in 2016.

You may have been to Madrid south of Santa Fe on SH14. We always make time to stop there and eat at The Hollar. Abby always says she would love to live there.

Abby and her Chihuahua Summer enjoy lunch in the sunshine at The Hollar in Madrid, New Mexico in 2019.
Abby and her Chihuahua Summer enjoy lunch in the sunshine at The Hollar in Madrid, New Mexico in 2019.

When Abby and I got home from Colorado in 2019, we bought “A Tribute to Dan Fogelberg,” and listened to it together in one sitting. Like his music in general, some of it was brilliant, and some of it missed the mark. That’s true for all musicians.

My favorite Dan Fogelberg cover isn’t on the Tribute, but the title track from Ashton, Becker and Dente’s 1994 cover album “Along the Road.”

Jean talks about Dan sailing alone in the last few months of his life, and while there is a certain romance about going off to sea and disappearing forever, I think this was a serious mistake: pilots aren’t allowed to fly on all the drugs he was taking, and I’m not sure driving is even safe in that situation. If the argument is that it was his business how he wanted to live and die at the end, fine, but search and rescue is costly and dangerous to all involved.

“Stress and physical wear and tear had begun wreaking havoc on my own body,” she writes in the chapter called Living with the Enemy, and I am certainly in synch with this feeling. When Abby is at her sickest, I stop eating and sleeping, lose weight, and my stomach hurts. You can argue that I should take care of myself, but it is a very fundamental reaction to that kind of stress.

Like a lot of artists, it would have been better for Fogelberg’s music to disappear without a trace rather than get drawn into the corporate music mill. As I wrote this, I listened to his entire catalog, and I remembered fondly his amazing early music, and cringed with embarrassment for us all when I got to 1987’s Exiles. This album sounded like the culture at the time, from the Entertainment Tonight-like soprano sax solos to the drum machines. He became the hair band of easy listening. Exiles is as derivative as any music I’ve ever experienced.

It didn’t have to be that way, of course. It wasn’t his sound. It was the sound (and bad advice) of some popped-collar producer who wanted to ride the industry tide.

In some ways, it’s tempting to forgive individual musicians for the dreck they pumped out during that time. 1987 was, after all, the year that gave us Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley, I Want to Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) by Whitney Houston, Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car by Billy Ocean, and … oh, it hurts my brain to even type this … (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes.

Dan Fogelberg’s best songs, in my offbeat estimation, are the ones that take advantage of his amazing guitar skills and triharmonic vocals: Scarecrow’s DreamThe Last Nail, The Innocent Age, Sketches, Souvenirs, and Along the Road.

Same Old Lang Syne and Leader of the Band are often cited as great, but they don’t reach me like they do most people.

The chapters of Jean’s account drift off-course fairly often. I know it’s meant to be an intimate tale of their lives together, but I got really bored with the banal chit-chat about which wine they chose to go with which pasta.

Speaking of wine, there is a chapter in which she talks about their wine collection being ruined by a dehumidifier, and they would have to go to the wine shop the next day to replace their expensive Italian wines. Wow. Those poor little rich people had to replace their precious, pricey wine. Sometimes the wealthy can really lose sight of themselves.

I want to add that I thought very highly of Fogelberg’s music when he was really at the crest of his talent and popularity, from 1972’s Home Free through 1983’s Windows and Walls. It’s quite a musical achievement to have such a long run of great music, especially in a world of one-hit wonders.

I would have liked to meet and photograph the man, but I’ve never liked the paparazzi photography scene, and I’m not certain I would have been the photographer for him. Still, I feel I might have been able to express something about his amazing musical talent, and something about how his music and vision influenced me.

My first Dan Fogelberg albums were vinyl records, later replaced by CDs, later supplemented by MP3s.
My first Dan Fogelberg albums were vinyl records, later replaced by CDs, later supplemented by MP3s.

Review: The Journals of Kurt Cobain

I liked reading Cobain's journals in his own handwriting.
I liked reading Cobain’s journals in his own handwriting.

“I don’t think you’re going to come away from this ‘decoding’ knowing anything more about him than what is already commonly known. You may learn something about him you, personally, didn’t know before, but as for ‘decoding’ him? Not gonna happen. Not from photos of his journal pages alone.”

And so another dismissive, journalist wannabe tried to put me in my place.

When I inadvertently heard that Kurt Cobain kept a journal, I stopped what I was doing right then and found them on Amazon and ordered them. I have been re-reading them for two years since then.

I read some reviews of Kurt Cobain’s Journals in preparation for writing this review. They were all over the place, from praising Cobain’s rawness, candor and expressiveness, to ultra-unforgiving criticism of Cobain’s widow Courtney Love being a sellout for publishing it.

Cobain wasn’t the kind of kid who hung in my high school circles, and he wouldn’t have been comfortable for a minute with my adult friends. Nor was he the school bully or misfit, prom king or quarterback, trumpeter or debater.

That mostly just leaves one category: burners. Those guys were assholes in school, but they all ended up (or already were) in the throes of self-destruction. So sure, I can see Cobain behind a dumpster on a Saturday night when he was 12.

A teenage girl I knew on the day Cobain died told me, “Kurt Cobain was a genius.” At the time, I was very annoyed with her, since his suicide seemed so petulant and selfish, but today I might reconsider. Why? As my brilliant reviewer/journalist/social commentator friend Dan said in his review of Nevermind, “Nirvana was on the forefront of (a) change, a blast of hard rock that was totally different than the plastic, corporate-sanctioned music that had ended the Eighties.”

I know, I’m shifting all over the place, but so did Cobain’s journal.

In the end, I like Cobain’s journal because I can relate to them. I journal, and that journal can be dark, overly honest, contentious, jittery, and chaotic, although I also yearn for a sense of chaos that Cobain clearly mastered.

Here are a few phrases I circled or highlighted while I was reading it…

“I hope I die before I turn into Pete Townshend.”
“Smells like thirtysomething.”
“I’ve collaborated with one of my idols William Burroughs.”
“Television is the most evil thing on our planet.”
“Fuck now, suffer later.”
“I don’t want a granddaughter of mine changing my soiled rubber underwear while I suck on Ry-Krisp, clinging to existence just so I can reminisce about my life as a professional reminiscent.”
“I like passion. I like innocence.”
“Censorship is very American.”
“The king of words is everything.”
“God how I love playing live.”
“Thanks for the tragedy. I need it for my art.”
“Recycle, vote, question, or blow your head off.”
“The revolution will be televised.”
“Life isn’t nearly as sacred as the appreciation of passion.”
“If you think everything has been said and done, then how come nothing has been solved and resolved?”
“I hate myself and want to die.”

Cobain’s most common illustration in his journal is of rooftop snipers aiming at Nazis or Klansmen.

Cobain once wrote a letter to a congressman accidentally using a cigarette instead of a pen.

My sister pointed out that Cobain had terrible taste in woman, since he married one of humanity’s worst, Courtney Love.

For years and years, intimacy seemed to hover around my journals. Now I look back at them (more on that soon), and see how valuable that is, even when others dismantle and criticize them. They are real, raw, unpolished, unprotected, and vulnerable.

I recommend that you, too, read Kurt Cobain’s journals.

Writing something on paper summons a very different part of our minds than typing or texting.
Writing something on paper summons a very different part of our minds than typing or texting.

How to Do Your Own Research

  1. Get a college degree in the field you wish to research.
  2. Get a masters degree in the field you wish to research.
  3. Get a doctorate in the field you wish to research.
  4. Get hired by a company or university in the field you wish to research.
  5. Research.
  6. Copying the research of others is not research.

The Social Dilemma

When considering the "fake news" paradigm, consider this: this image is NOT a picture of the Statue of Liberty. It is a replica in Las Vegas.
When considering the “fake news” paradigm, consider this: this image is NOT a picture of the Statue of Liberty. It is a replica in Las Vegas.

I just watched the Netflix Original Documentary The Social Dilemma, and I have some thoughts on this rather chilling assessment of the current and future netscape.

  1. I have often been disappointed by my social media posts seeming to gather so much more attention than my blog posts here on this site, and I always have a sneaking suspicion that is due to the way social media stimulates rewards centers in the brain, while my blog posts are only well-written, thoughtful and true.
  2. The same concept applies to newspapers vs social media. One of the experts cited in this film asserts that fake news gets about six times as many shares as real news, “because real news is boring.”
  3. I recently turned down a better-paying job in corporate social media, and am feeling very vindicated for it after watching this show.
  4. Social media sharing and participation is easy for everyone, and requires little thought. In a post about my wife’s recent hospitalization, there were 318 “likes” and 108 comments, almost all of which were kind but empty, as in, “thoughts and prayers.” You feel like you are contributing something, but nothing particularly valuable.
  5. A relative of ours recently claimed with unwavering certainty that ivermectin, “cures 97 percent of all COVID-19 cases,” and she couldn’t have gotten ahold of a lie like that anywhere else but social media.

So what could the answer be? Is it enough for us to vet and share the truth every day, or will it take action by the force of governments and armies to stop poisoning our minds? Are we, as one commenting in the show asserted, headed for a civil war?

We've all heard the analogy of the "frog in boiling water," in which the heat gets higher so slowly the frog doesn't realize it is being boiled.
We’ve all heard the analogy of the “frog in boiling water,” in which the heat gets higher so slowly the frog doesn’t realize it is being boiled. Are we being boiled?

The Golden Age of the Internet

No matter how many laptop computers you have, you can't make people put down their smartphones.
No matter how many laptop computers you have, you can’t make people put down their smartphones.

In the last 15 years, we have all witnessed the internet deteriorate. What at first seemed like a gleaming futurtopia of the “information superhighway” has become a place for intellectual and spiritual poison.

I’ve been getting nostalgic recently about that golden age: Nyan Cat, Amber Lamps, Double Rainbow All the Way, Badger Badger Badger, Salad Fingers, The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny, Teen Girl Squad, and others have served to remind me that there was a time when the web could entertain us without the appalling obsession with money.

Black box warning: clicking on any of the above links may be preceded by, or contain, advertising.

A recent trip down the Wikipedia rabbit hole on various subjects brought me to this article: the digital dark age. I hate to say it, but I tend to be right about stuff a lot, and I was always right about this one. I tell my students to keep migrating their data to newer technologies, or they will lose them forever.

And of course, you know where I am going with this: it’s all about money. There’s no money in being brilliant. It’s not socially-piercing poetry that gets 10 million likes. The likes, and the money, go to intellectually numbing crap on sites like Tic-Toc.

Of particular annoyance is that so many (probably the majority of) websites have some kind of nagging beg for money. Pop-overs, pop-downs, ads that take forever to load, all make those pages insufferable. Even the Associated Press home page nags us every time with a pop-over that you can’t not see…

You know what, AP website? Go f*ck yourself.
You know what, AP website? Go f*ck yourself.

This web site, richardbarron.net, has been online since 2004, and I am keeping it up. A downside to that is that viewers gloss over links on social media, and seldom navigate to websites based on searches or bookmarks. I sometimes think that no one ever clicks on links when they browse social media because, to be kind, they are brainwashed into consuming their reality in tiny, salty, sugary, cheesy little bytes.

Part of what we web old-timers liked was the idea of flowing freely from one page to the next, following suggested links or search results, in a fashion that made the internet a bit like a scavenger hunt. In 2021, many, maybe most, users, follow only what one app offers them.

The most obvious solution to you and your digital footprint is to find a way to express it non-digitally. Write or type on paper. Print your photographs. Hold on to your phonograph records, audio tapes, and CDs. Yet I remain pessimistic when I see more powerful and complex smartphones used to create mediocre photos and video, open to one app, used for bottom-tier entertainment only.

In conclusion, if you sprinkle Ivermectin on your Tide pods, it works twice as well to prevent the Rona.

Tiny monsters loom large if they are close enough.
Tiny monsters loom large if they are close enough.

Two Decades Since 9/11

In some ways, the era before 9/11 was an age of innocence.

Just prior to 9/11, I was flying a lot, like in this image of my friend Michael and me flying a cranky Piper Tomahawk (known to aviators as the "Traumahawk") that I rented at Max Westheimer Field in Norman.
Just prior to 9/11, I was flying a lot, like in this image of my friend Michael and me flying a cranky Piper Tomahawk (known to aviators as the “Traumahawk”) that I rented at Max Westheimer Field in Norman.

I have written many times over the years about where I was when 9/11 happened. Since Saturday is the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, an entire generation of people, some my friends and relatives, have little to no memories of that day.

The World Trade Center in New York City is shown in this March 1985 image from the Empire State Building.
The World Trade Center in New York City is shown in this March 1985 image from the Empire State Building.

So today I’d like to share not where I was or what I was doing, but who I was on that day.

I was still flying all the time. I earned my pilot certificate in May 1993, and flew a lot in those years. There were a couple of nice, affordable airplanes to rent at the Ada and Norman airports, and I was building hours by flying and training. 9/11 had a chilling effect on this, since, only marginally related, the terrorists involved had a small amount of general aviation training.

I flew to Florida in the late summer of 2001 to see my parents. My mother made this image of me on a pier at Flagler Beach, Florida. The next time I took a commercial flight in December 2001, the Orlando airport was packed with armed National Guard troops.
I flew to Florida in the late summer of 2001 to see my parents. My mother made this image of me on a pier at Flagler Beach, Florida. The next time I took a commercial flight in December 2001, the Orlando airport was packed with armed National Guard troops.

I was unmarried and wasn’t dating anyone. This wasn’t for lack of trying, but more about how difficult it is to be in a good relationship or in a good marriage. From the moment of 9/11 to my first date with my wife Abby in January 2003, it seemed like an eternity, but of course it was just 16 months.

I lived in a very small downtown Ada apartment. Because it was near the college, my apartment tended to be more culturally diverse than most neighborhoods, and I really liked that.

I still had a darkroom at our newspaper, so I was still very active in film photography, especially black-and-white photography.

On September 12, after more than 24 hours of watching the news about the attacks, a friend told me on the phone that, “I’m really brain dead. I wonder if it’s information overload. I feel like the wheels are just whirring away inside my head.”

9/11 changed us all in some ways.

Just a few days before 9/11, I photographed Ann Kelley with her dog Cookie at their home in Shawnee. Sadly, Ann passed away in 2012 after a battle with cancer.
Just a few days before 9/11, I photographed Ann Kelley with her dog Cookie at their home in Shawnee. Sadly, Ann passed away in 2012 after a battle with cancer.

Another Reason to Vaccinate

A friend confessed to me just today that he was “afraid of shots,” but was seriously considering getting his COVID-19 vaccination. He said he’d seen that I got vaccinated Monday Aug. 23. What he didn’t realize is that I got my third, or “booster”, dose of the Moderna-made vaccine.

Update, August 25: a day after I talked to my friend and posted this entry, I got a text message from my office showing his CDC vaccination card with his first vaccination, with the text message below it, which said, “Tell Richard that’s for him.”

For the first 24 to 36 hours after receiving my third, booster, dose of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, August 23, I was achy and just a tad feverish, but it was tolerable, and even encouraging that my body was mounting an immune response.
For the first 24 to 36 hours after receiving my third, booster, dose of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, August 23, I was achy and just a tad feverish, but it was tolerable, and even encouraging that my body was mounting an immune response.

My sister thinks the entire “vaccine hesitancy” issue is exactly that: fear of needles and injections. I think that is probably an issue with many, but I’m willing to say that it is more dynamic than that; that people are afraid of their bodies, afraid to put things in their bodies that they don’t understand, afraid of trusting others.

For me: there has never been a more important time to be as immune as possible. I am in a hospital setting every day right now as I visit my wife Abby, who is recovering from a very serious non-COVID-related illness, and bringing COVID to her would be a serious setback.

I was born in 1963. I have been vaccinated against polio, smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, pneumococcal pneumonia, shingles, hepatitis A, hepatitis B,  yearly influenza and, now, SARS-CoV-2, and have never, even once, had any significant complications from any of them.

I hope my friend gets his vaccines, and I hope many other follow my example and do the same.

Of all the vaccinations I have gotten, Shingrix, a two-shot shingles vaccine, hurt the most, and was sore the longest, about a week. You what it felt like? It felt like not getting shingles.
Of all the vaccinations I have gotten, Shingrix, a two-shot shingles vaccine, hurt the most, and was sore the longest, about a week. You what it felt like? It felt like not getting shingles.

“Oink!”

By the time I was a senior is high school, I was hanging out with some people who might not have been the best influences on me.

One thing we did all summer long after graduation was to “cruise.” Younger readers might not exactly understand this activity, since it seems so lame, but essentially, we drove around in big circles, showing off something – how cool we were, how much cooler we were, how much cooler we were than (insert other kinds of people like “goat ropers” or “proud crowd”), and, in the case of the people I cruised with, how cool their cars were.

I recently watched a video on a YouTube channel called Audit the Audit, which is about “the right and wrong of police interactions.”

The video that prompted this entry (link) was one about police detaining a group of young people because one of them shouted “f*ck the police” at them from the passenger side of their vehicle.

A nearly identical event happened to me in 1981: I was riding in a vehicle with two other teenagers when one of them spotted a cop and called “OINK!” as loud as he could from the passenger window.

The police weren’t very happy hearing that, and immediately pulled us over. I understand now, as an adult, why this is so offensive, but at that time in my life, steered by the influence of kids with too much money and huge egos, it felt rebellious and event righteous.

The police called us back behind the car one at a time, and I was first. They asked me who yelled at them, and I told them it was my friend in the back seat. Our driver was next, and he also told them it was our back-seater.

The kid who oinked was back there along time, and the driver and I heard raised police voices. When he came back to the car and the police told us we could go, he was visibly shaken, and told us it was because he recognized the officer as one who had allegedly shot a teenager while working as deputy in a nearby small town.

I thought of this encounter and similar ones from my youth after watching the Audit the Audit video, which concluded that the police officer in the video, who was fired from the force after the incident, acted wrongly, and that criticism of the police, even vulgar, puerile criticism, is a right protected by the Constitution.

Tennagers are children in adult bodies, and can often be arrogant, selfish, and short-sighted.
Tennagers are children in adult bodies, and can often be arrogant, selfish, and short-sighted.

Sidebar: this is a separate entry I have been holding for a few years, but it seems connected to this item in many ways…

I took up with the wrong people in late high school and college, not by virtue of them ruining my life or getting me in trouble, but because they were assholes.

  • J, who moved into my dorm room by trading with my assigned roommate while I was away, without asking me, was something of a sadist, took pleasure in making people look foolish, and constantly made fun of music I liked even though I never asked him to listen to it.
  • A, who set some sort of “trap” to find out if I’d been sleeping in J’s bed, which I had not, and took great pleasure in accusing me of it.
  • On the first day of my sophomore year, A and C brought a dog to our room while I was away, and asked me if they could keep him. When I said no, A said, “See, I told you so.” No you can’t keep a dog in student housing, you four year old.
  • C and J once accidentally skipped the check at a popular Mexican restaurant, and upon discovering how it happened, repeatedly skipped the check in the same fashion.
  • C kept a pistol in his car, and routinely parked in the tow-away zone. Once he fell asleep and his car was towed. About to be arrested for illegal possession of a firearm on campus, his father intervened, possibly with a bribe, to make the charges go away. C had the gun in his car as soon as it was returned to him.
  • C and J made it the duty of passengers to throw any fast food packaging onto the road from the moving vehicle without regard for littering in any way.

 

We Were Lines on a Map

In 2000, I joined a Yahoo! group associated with my high school’s Class of 1981 20th reunion. I got really interested in it for a while. It was like a forum or chat room, only with people who, mostly, attended Eisenhower High School in Lawton, Oklahoma with me. Like most Yahoo! groups, or anything else from the internet in 2000, it has long since died. It was unsuccessfully replaced for the 30th reunion by a Facebook page, and now is two Facebook pages, Eisenhower Class of 1980 and 1981 class reunion, and Ike 1981 40th reunion. Both sites appear to be hosting the same event.

(Note to self: blog later about the failure of social media to actually be social.)

Ann Kelley made this image of me at the Blue Ice Cream Social. The guy in the center of the frame is Dray, one of the few people who hung out with me in tenth grade. I have no idea who the woman is.
Ann Kelley made this image of me at the Blue Ice Cream Social. The guy in the center of the frame is Dray, one of the few people who hung out with me in tenth grade. I have no idea who the woman is.

In early July 2001, I attended that reunion. I admit that I really just wanted to see a few people, all women, and that the event was awkward and disappointing.

The only real thing I had in common with most of these people is that I lived within the same boundaries on a map as they did. We owed any “friendship” we had to school board members and the economics of home ownership.

You lived in that school district, so don’t fudge your Huggies because you were a Hokie or a Gamecock or a Trojan or a Tarheel or a Pug. It just happened to you.

Most of the people at my high school, and by extension my high school reunion, were complete strangers, and even the people I sort of knew back then turned out to be as boring and ordinary as I thought they would. Some were, just as they had been in high school, complete assholes.

The reunion was a two-day affair. On that Friday, I attended the Blue Ice Cream Social. It was named after a non-sanctioned event on football Friday nights, held at a different rich kid’s house each week, called Blue Ice Cream. It sometimes involved drinking, but always involved a pool party. Except for one time I was assigned to shoot it for the Talon yearbook, I never went to Blue Ice Cream, for both the fact that I wouldn’t have enjoyed it, and that I was never invited.

With me on that Friday night in 2001 was Ann Kelley, who seemed to have a lot of fun making video from the affair. On the drive home to Ada, after an odd silence, she said, “Richard, I can’t believe someone as interesting as you went to school with those people.”

In all fairness, I am pretty sure none of them really care about me, either, and if they thought I was an ass in high school, they still thought of me as an ass. Except for their efforts to populate the 30th reunion, almost no one from the class has made any effort to maintain any kind of friendship with me. In fact, looking through my contacts list, I only find Anna and Michael, who were two of my closest friends in high school, and the only genuinely loyal ones.

This is a previously unpublished overview I shot on the patio at Eisenhower High School during the Blue Ice Cream Social in July 2001. I swear, I couldn't give you the first names of more than five people in this image.
This is a previously unpublished overview I shot on the patio at Eisenhower High School during the Blue Ice Cream Social in July 2001. I swear, I couldn’t give you the first names of more than five people in this image.

Goodbye Mac, Hello Mackenzee Ellen

Mackenzee Crosby and I visited and photographed the old Ada News building one day. I worked there for more than 30 years.
Mackenzee Crosby and I visited and photographed the old Ada News building one day. I worked there for more than 30 years.

Early in her internship, Mackenzee Ellen Crosby was using the moniker “Mac,” both personally, and on social media.

Mackenzee Crosby photographs some of her Polaroid images in a windowsill in an alley as she and I were on a "photo walk" on a rainy day in May.
Mackenzee Crosby photographs some of her Polaroid images in a windowsill in an alley as she and I were on a “photo walk” on a rainy day in May.

As she grew up, her identity matured and she felt more distance from who she had been as a child and as a young teenager, and she struggled with her identity. We all do that. My sister Nicole wanted to be called “Nicci” for a while. My friend Kaitlyn went by “Katy” for a year or so. One of the Ashford cousins used the last name “Smashford” for a while.

Mackenzee and I made this ghostly self-portrait in a puddle in downtown Ada.
Mackenzee and I made this ghostly self-portrait in a puddle in downtown Ada.

Then one day I told Mackenzee that I liked her name, especially when paired with her middle name, Ellen. In another conversation around that time, I brainstormed some title ideas for her column, and they included Eye Opener, Truth and Coffee, Dear Ellen, Something to Say, Inside Out, This Reclusive Silence, Between You and Me, Journal of Secrets, Thin as a Ghost, This Mortal Coil, Ellipses, A Woman Alone, Hide and Seek, Rough Draft, Morning Light, and Ellen in Grey.

She loved Ellen in Grey, and for the entire summer, that was the name of her column.

Also for the entire summer, she fell in love with journalism.

Mackenzee and Ashlynd Elizabeth "America" Huffman wear news t-shirts at the Oklahoma Press Association's annual convention in Oklahoma City in June.
Mackenzee and Ashlynd Elizabeth “America” Huffman wear news t-shirts at the Oklahoma Press Association’s annual convention in Oklahoma City in June.

Mackenzee and I seem to have connections. Photography and journalism are the obvious ones. The next layer is social and religious. At our cores are writing, expressing ourselves emotionally, and a sense that we are outcasts, that people see us as “weird.”

Mackenzee accepted an award for Sports Editor Jeff Cali at the Oklahoma Press Association's annual convention in June, do the "finger 'stache" gesture.
Mackenzee accepted an award for Sports Editor Jeff Cali at the Oklahoma Press Association’s annual convention in June, do the “finger ‘stache” gesture.

I read things she wrote in tenth grade, and they could have been my very words when I was in tenth grade.

On one of our first assignments together with Ashlynd, we stopped to photograph clouds I spotted through my sunroof, and that really made an impression on her. This image of Mackenzee photographing a fairy ring reminded me of that time.
On one of our first assignments together with Ashlynd, we stopped to photograph clouds I spotted through my sunroof, and that really made an impression on her. This image of Mackenzee photographing a fairy ring reminded me of that time.

Mackenzee says she’d love to work for us part time during the upcoming academic year, but wants to leave Ada when she graduates from college. I can’t say that I fault her for that; I despise my former hometown so much I actually don’t call it my home town any more.

I have discovered that Mackenzee is not a “hug”person. I have hugged her on three occasions, including when her internship ended, and they all just kind of bounced off. I have tons of “hug” friends in town, and we fall into each other’s arms like we never missed a beat.

I am far-sighted, and Mackenzee is near-sighted, so each of us always had to reset the diopter every time we traded cameras.

Mackenzee already had some impressive skills when she started her internship, but is so bright and easy-going that she soaked up journalism like a sponge. I feel like she grew a lot in the weeks we had her on staff.
Mackenzee already had some impressive skills when she started her internship, but is so bright and easy-going that she soaked up journalism like a sponge. I feel like she grew a lot in the weeks we had her on staff.

We had another great intern in 2019, Ashlynd, and she became one of my best friends. Ashlynd and Mackenzee became better friends this summer, especially after attending the Oklahoma Press Association’s annual convention, but it’s worth noting that they are quite different from each other:  Ashlynd is into journalism at the street level. She loves ambushing criminals getting arrested or going to house fires in the middle of the night. Mackenzee’s journalism, on the other hand, seems focused on social issues and injustices, although in her goodbye column she said, “Some of my favorite assignments to cover were spot news. I love the exhilaration and adrenaline from working a car accident or crime scene, even though they are often heartbreaking.”

When Ashlynd saw a photo of Mackenzee running across the street at the scene of a car crash with her camera, she told Mackenzee, “I feel this on a spiritual level.”

Mackenzee makes pictures at the scene of a car crash near Ada High School in June.
Mackenzee makes pictures at the scene of a car crash near Ada High School in June.

There are people in our lives who we are always glad to see, people with whom we have lifelong conversations that we can pick up after five minutes or six months without missing a step, and I hope Mackenzee and I have that kind of friendship.

“I will cherish the memories made alongside my friend and mentor, Richard Barron,” she wrote. I hope she and I continue to curate memories no matter where our lives, and our journalism, takes us.

Mackenzee and I pose for a selfie at Ada High School graduation in May. She graduated from Ada in 2017. Covering graduations were among the first assignments I did during my own internship in 1982.
Mackenzee and I pose for a selfie at Ada High School graduation in May. She graduated from Ada in 2017. Covering graduations were among the first assignments I did during my own internship in 1982.

Some Fun Travel Notes and Observations

Abby and I were finally able to travel again after a 20-month hiatus due to the pandemic. We chose the beauty of northern New Mexico.

I wrote a comprehensive trip report, The Summit, here (link), but here are a few extra thoughts.

Taos is a mess

It has been my displeasure to watch charming towns grow up, and as they do, “grow” economically, meaning that they get more businesses, and in turn get more infrastructure. Taos was once small and charming, but it now has a super Walmart, a sign that it has changed into an emotionally dead suburb. Santa Fe and Moab, Utah, have both died in my eyes in this way.

I'm sure this butterfly was meant to brighten up the route through Taos, but now it is graffiti tagged and ratty.
I’m sure this butterfly was meant to brighten up the route through Taos, but now it is graffiti tagged and ratty.

Poverty due to the virus

It was pretty clear looking at the number of closed, and even abandoned, businesses that towns that rely heavily, or even exclusively, on tourism and recreation fared worse than most because of the pandemic.

We saw many locations in Taos and through much of New Mexico that had been struggling before the pandemic, only to be finished off by it in the past year.
We saw many locations in Taos and through much of New Mexico that had been struggling before the pandemic, only to be finished off by it in the past year.

Church protest

On at least two days in Taos, I saw a car legally parked in front of First Baptist Church, covered in blaze yellow signs criticizing Vacation Bible School as “brainwashing.” It’s a pretty strong statement, and many people I know would probably find it offensive, but however you feel about the statement, you have to admit that making it was free speech in its purest form.

I know more than a few people who would actively advocate banning such displays, while at the same time saying they believe in freedom. To them, freedom is the freedom to be like them.
I know more than a few people who would actively advocate banning such displays, while at the same time saying they believe in freedom. To them, freedom is the freedom to be like them.

Food and more food

We had several great meals on our trip, from an amazing pizza in Taos to a great veggie burger and sweet potato fries in Madrid, but honestly, I don’t understand people for whom the best part of travel is the food. The best meals in our lives are usually at home, and I can get a great meal anywhere. I drive to Utah or New Mexico to find things we don’t have in Oklahoma, like mountains, deserts, and canyons, not overpriced appetizers.

We had a wonderful $22 pizza for dinner one night in Taos, but the truth is that I can make a pizza this good at home with ingredients that might cost $1.50.
We had a wonderful $22 pizza for dinner one night in Taos, but the truth is that I can make a pizza this good at home with ingredients that might cost $1.50.

 

A High School Graduate

A portion of this was my column this weekend. I added some less-palatable bits to this entry.

This is Jena Owrey during a football game in September 1980. She was always sweet to me, and we remained friends on social media for a long time, but she has now disappeared. Also of note: compare how skinny the football players look compared to current players.
This is Jena Owrey during a football game in September 1980. She was always sweet to me, and we remained friends on social media for a long time, but she has now disappeared. Also of note: compare how skinny the football players look compared to current players.

As I cover graduations this year, as I do every year, I think of when I walked the same walk.

I graduated from Lawton’s Eisenhower High School on May 31, 1981. If you subtract, yes, that is 40 years ago. Wow.

For some people, high school is a cherished part of their lives, and while I have some great memories from that time, I have to say that I didn’t remain connected to very many people from my graduating class, which, at about 640, was quite large compared to the graduations I cover in the Ada area.

On the day I graduated from high school, President Ronald Reagan was still recovering from an assassination attempt. I didn’t own a computer. Cell phones weren’t a thing yet. MTV had not yet been launched. The first space shuttle had just launched. CDC scientists reported the first five observed cases of AIDS.

It was, as they say, a different time.

I made this image of Eisenhower High School in Lawton, Oklahoma in 2011, but it looked exactly like this in 1981.
I made this image of Eisenhower High School in Lawton, Oklahoma in 2011, but it looked exactly like this in 1981.

From my perspective as a photographer, I can tell you that “different time” doesn’t begin to describe how much imaging has changed since that warm day in May 1981.
The 1980s saw a lot of important growth in photographic film. In black-and-white, Kodak’s Tri-X ruled at the start of that decade, but by 1987, Kodak reinvented black-and-white with this T-Max films, including T-Max P3200, which changed my world as a news photographer. In color, we saw 400-speed and 800-speed films go from exotic high-sensitivity film with sharpness-robbing grain to the films we reached for every day.

Photographing graduations themselves has changed tremendously as well. On the day I graduated, my parents might have shot five frames of my friends and me, and me in the unflattering powder blue cap and gown. As I walked across the stage, the photographer made exactly one direct-flash shot of me receiving my diploma.
Today’s world of digital imaging means a senior might be photographed hundreds of times at every event, including their walk across the stage.

To me, though, that photo of me isn’t particularly meaningful. Sure, it’s a moment in my life, but it is emotionless and unengaging. I have tried, as years have gone by, to make my photojournalistic efforts at covering graduations more emotional, more engaging, more memorable.

On this day I started the process of realizing how little I liked the people who attended school with me.
On this day I started the process of realizing how little I liked the people who attended school with me.

Here is the part I redacted: my posse in high school and I haven’t spoken a word to each other in decades. Part of that is because I was so hard to get along with, but a bigger part of it is that I went to high school with a bunch of turds.

I talked about this at greater length in an entry called We Were Lines on a Map (link.)

That's me on the left. When Abby saw this, she said, "You look about eight." I was 17, but about as mature as an eight year old. The other people in this image are Christy Parker, who I don't know, Allen Biehl, Jeff Glenn, and Carey "Chip" Johnson. I recognize now that I should have been keeping different company. No criticism of them is intended. We just weren't a good fit.
That’s me on the left. When Abby saw this, she said, “You look about eight.” I was 17, but about as mature as an eight year old. The other people in this image are Christy Parker, who I don’t know, Allen Biehl, Jeff Glenn, and Carey “Chip” Johnson. I recognize now that I should have been keeping different company. No criticism of them is intended. We just weren’t a good fit.

In 2001, I attended a high school reunion, mostly just to see one girl, and was very disappointed by who these people had become. I don’t expect to attend another one.

It’s pretty clear also that many of them are contemptuous of me as well, since they refuse to add me to their friends list on social media.

Here is another frames of my friends and me, acting like jackasses because we thought it made us look clever.
Here is another frames of my friends and me, acting like jackasses because we thought it made us look clever.

“Everything Richard Eats is Healthy”

A really good meal starts with color.
A really good meal starts with color.

I was at a public gathering recently, and someone in the group said she’d lost 30 pounds recently, 30 pounds she said she’d gained during the lockdowns associated with coronavirus. She told us she lost the weight using the Optavia diet. I was impressed by her achievement, but that diet involves lots of cabbage and broccoli, and she said she had run out of ideas about how to cook them.

“Those are two of the most nutritious foods you can eat,” I said.

“Everything Richard eats is healthy,” she said to the group. I wish that were true. What is true is that I try to be aware of the nutritional content of everything I eat.

I have really been enjoying oranges lately.
I have really been enjoying oranges lately.

When my wife Abby wants a baked ziti from our favorite Italian place, for example, I usually get a veggie pizza while I am there. The fact that it’s a “veggie” pizza doesn’t change its nutritional content much. It’s an indulgence, but I always make sure not to overeat. Pizza keeps well and reheats easily, so I usually make three meals out of it.

I did myself the favor of buying these organic rainbow baby carrots the other day.
I did myself the favor of buying these organic rainbow baby carrots the other day.

Here are some additional thoughts about diet and health…

  • Refined sugar isn’t really a nutrient. How I feel when I eat sugar? Since I eat refined sugar so infrequently, its effect is very evident: rising heart rate, a subtle feeling of anxiety, marked mood elevation followed by a classic “sugar crash.”
  • I stopped drinking sugar drinks like soda decades ago, and if I have a sip of one now, it doesn’t taste appealing in any way.
  • Why do I like what I like? I never get tired of broccoli and cabbage, beans and rice, fresh fruit and whole grains. I admit that some of this is by choice, and some of it is how I am constituted genetically.
  • Counting carbs is off base; that’s how we got here in the first place. I believe the answer lies in a more fundamental behavior: eating less, eating real food, and moving more. The minute you look at a real food like a peach or a cantaloupe and assign a number to it, you’ve lost your way.
  • I ponder this one all the time: nobody wants to be obese or diabetic, so why is it so prevalent? Is it that the machinery of industry makes too much money too easily selling sugar and fat to us, or is it that we are too easily tempted by these things?
  • Stop thinking of food as a reward, and start thinking of food as a choice.
  • On weekends or other days off, the next thing I do after a meal is walk our dogs.
  • One trick that works for me: if I don’t think it should be in my diet, I won’t bring it into my house. When I have a desire for a mid-afternoon snack and look in the pantry, I find what I brought home from the grocery store. Is it apples and steel cut oats, or snack cakes and doughnuts?

I want to end this on a positive note: everyone and anyone can eat a healthier diet, it’s easier than you might imagine, and it has the potential to turn your health and your life completely around.

This is the end result of my go-to stir-fry: Gardein Meatless Chik'n strips, broccoli, carrots, and red cabbage, stir-fried until brown and tender, served over a bed of rice/quinoa mix. I have been eating this dish for 30 years, and I never get tired of it.
This is the end result of my go-to stir-fry: Gardein Meatless Chik’n strips, broccoli, carrots, and red cabbage, stir-fried until brown and tender, served over a bed of rice/quinoa mix. I have been eating this dish for 30 years, and I never get tired of it.

Nature Fighting Back

I got my second coronavirus vaccination this week. My arm is very sore and I have some muscle aches, but that tells me it’s working.

My second dose of Moderna-made coronavirus vaccine goes in my arm yesterday morning.
My second dose of Moderna-made coronavirus vaccine goes in my arm yesterday morning.

I posted on social media this week that my peach trees had gone straight to leaves this year, and did not appear to be making blossoms, which, according to my photos from previous years, almost always happened before the first day of spring. I was convinced that I wouldn’t have peaches, though I was encouraged to see that I did have plum blossoms.

A peach blossom clings to a branch on the largest of my peach trees this evening.
A peach blossom clings to a branch on the largest of my peach trees this evening.

Then today, as I walked Hawken, I caught sight of a few peach blossoms on a couple of my trees, and I felt encouraged, both because I might actually get peaches, but also that it seemed to me that nature, after years of cruelty to it by humans, seemed, in the last 15 months or so, to be fighting back.

I have more than one variety of peach trees in my orchard, and they make slightly different blossoms.
I have more than one variety of peach trees in my orchard, and they make slightly different blossoms.

In the Midst of the Rona, I Got My Shingles Vaccination

Great news today: my wife Abby was able to receive her second dose of Pfizer-made coronavirus vaccine Friday.

Across the country, health departments, hospitals and clinics have been struggling to meet demand for vaccines to address the historic coronavirus pandemic. I know that I am grateful for every effort they have made, and I am aware that something on such a scale is sure to be difficult, but we as a nation are on our way to taking our lives back from this disease.

Abby is a little older than I am, so she was eligible to receive her vaccine in the first phase of Governor Stitt’s four-phase plan for vaccinating Oklahomans. But I am in phrase three, so I won’t be eligible for some time yet, and while I wait, I remain aware that there are many other health issues that didn’t go away just because “the Rona” is here. For example, Abby and I both got influenza vaccinations last fall.

So it was that a television ad caught my eye: Shingrix, a vaccine against shingles, is now recommended for adults 50 and older who had chicken pox when they were young, which is most of us.

I’ve known people who have suffered through shingles, an awful, painful illness, and even someone whose shingles damaged her vision, so when I heard it was available, I couldn’t wait to get Shingrix in my arm.

Social media informed me that this vaccine would rough me up a little bit, and they weren’t wrong: just 24 hours from the first of two shots, my side effects were pretty textbook: my arm is super sore, and I even had a little bit of fever, both of which made it difficult to sleep, but which responded to Tylenol.

I am a proponent of vaccines, since I am old enough to know people who had diseases like polio, diphtheria, mumps, measles, whooping cough, tetanus, and smallpox, just to mention a few, which plagued humanity for centuries until being brought under control, and in the case of smallpox, eliminated by vaccines.

I would also encourage my readers to have some common sense when it comes to vaccines and the absurd conspiracy theories surrounding them.

When I become eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine, I will take it, and hopefully one fine day this year, we can reclaim our lives and routines, thanks to the science of vaccines.

Abby gets her follow-up coronavirus vaccination today.
Abby gets her follow-up coronavirus vaccination today.

A Legacy of Dignity

What if, after your political career, you could depart the landscape of history with dignity?

What if you could be known as someone who learned from the First World War and brokered a brilliant solution at the end of the Second World War?

What if you left with a spotless record of dignified speeches, a humble social servant and family man, whose administration remained unstained by scandal?

What if your legacy was to challenge America to a difficult and complex task that seemed insurmountable, but one to which America rose?

What if, despite an unimpressive political career, you went on to a long legacy of statesmanlike service to your nation and humanity?

But instead…

“Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election.”

“I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

“The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.”

“You can do anything. Grab them by the p**sy. You can do anything.”

“They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part)…”

And what if, instead of standing tall and speaking to the people of the world, from University pulpits and hallowed hall of mighty nations, you did it all from Twitter at four in the morning?

Is our flag fading?
Is our flag fading?

The Times We Have Made

The most difficult year since 9/11 is over, but the world seems to continue to deliver a steady stream of gut punches. The most recent of these is the unfathomably violent, vulgar and seditious actions by pro-Trump supporters in our nation’s capital.

There is good news, however…

  • Abby received her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine along with 1000 others in her age group yesterday at the Pontotoc County Agri-Plex. For most of 2020, my biggest worry about the pandemic has been bringing it home to her and her fragile immune system.
  • I am teaching photography again.
  • The protests appear to be over, and congress certified the Electoral College votes.

I and many around me were deeply troubled by the protests in Washington. I can’t speak for others, but for me the most disturbing notion is how eager some people are to throw out the constitution in the name of Trump. It resonates so closely with the events in Germany in 1933, and it sounds like a cliché to compare anyone to Hitler, but the parallels are too real to ignore.

In defense of the Right, the vice president and the senate majority leader, both Republicans, stood against the mob and the president to certify the election results. Even a very right-wing acquaintance of mine posted on social media to the mob: “At easy, assholes!”

Is this really the world we have made? Have we built this glistening tower of technology just to descend into ignorance and bloodshed? Imagine what we could do with the internet and global connectivity if we applied it to exploration, science, health, and medicine.

My thoughts on this are incomplete, so I will just leave this hear and see if anyone comments.

Abby receives her first COVID-19 vaccination yesterday, an mRNA vaccine from Moderna. Despite the appalling rumors and conspiracy theories, mostly from the right, about the vaccine being evil, it really is the only way we can get our world back to normal.
Abby receives her first COVID-19 vaccination yesterday, an mRNA vaccine from Moderna. Despite the appalling rumors and conspiracy theories, mostly from the right, about the vaccine being evil, it really is the only way we can get our world back to normal.