I’d somehow missed this gem. It’s the classic Genesis lineup of Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford, and Phil Collins. It was filmed during the Selling England By The Pound tour. What’s not to like about that? Not a damn thing.
I’d somehow missed this gem. It’s the classic Genesis lineup of Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford, and Phil Collins. It was filmed during the Selling England By The Pound tour. What’s not to like about that? Not a damn thing.
Spring is prime time for crawfish boils or as the natives say, berls. We’ve been to two in the last three weeks. The first one involved some of the usual suspects and nothing unusual happened other than a five-year-old girl pointing at the sacks of live crawfish and asking, “When will they be dead?” That’s a sassy Louisiana child, y’all. It’s one reason why her mama nicknamed her the Benevolent Dictator. I’m not so sure about the first bit though…
Something quite eventful happened last weekend at the second shebang. The berl was thrown (not by Milton Berle or Burl Ives) by one of Dr. A’s first year medical students. He’s an older student who was a helicopter pilot in the Army and is still a reservist. That’s one reason he lives at Jackson Barracks near Arabi, Louisiana. That’s right, it was an Arabi spring crawfish berl…
When I first heard our host’s name, I remarked that it was the same name as the man who sold us our house after renovating it in 2000. It’s a fairly common name so we agreed it was unlikely that her student was a Junior. Guess what? It’s a small fucking world after all. Our host’s father had indeed renovated Adrastos World HQ and Dr. A’s student had worked on the project. The latter was somewhat freaked out by the string of coincidences but I told him not to sweat it because it made him de facto teacher’s pet. Besides, the man knows how to boil crawfish. It’s an indispensable skill as far as I’m concerned.
This week’s theme song is the title track of Rodney Crowell’s 2003 album, Fate’s Right Hand. It seems that one of his daughters didn’t care for the song at the time. Somewhere in my archives I have a circa 2004 Crowell concert at which he introduced Fate’s Right Hand more or less as follows:
“My daughter hates this song. She told me it’s undignified for me to talk about poontang and the narrator of the song having a pole in his pants. I told her that I’m a country singer and her mother and grandfather are both country singers. We’re not dignified people. She reminded me that Grandpa Johnny was the most dignified person she knew. I couldn’t argue that point so I changed the subject.”
Fate’s Right Hand is a list song. The most famous list song I can think of is Irving Berlin’s You’re The Top. Another list song classic is REM’s It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine.) I don’t feel like listing list songs so here’s Fate’s Right Hand:
Rodney is fond of list songs. He wrote one about greedy yuppies for his 2005 album, The Outsider complete with the refrain: give it to me, give it to me. I will comply:
Give it to me, give it to me. You may not be as demanding as the coked-out greed head in the song but let’s take a break anyway. Give it to me, give it to me.
This is one of the few tables our cats are allowed on. Della Street would sit there anyway.
The Seventies English rock band 10cc were ahead of their time. For one thing, Lol Creme and Kevin Godley helped to develop the music video as an integral part of show business. For another, 10cc’s music and lyrics were quite visionary, especially I Wanna Rule The World. It imagines a wannabe dictator with the maturity and impulse control of a toddler. Sound familiar?
In the spirit of helpfulness for which I am known, I’d like to suggest I Wanna Rule The World as the official theme song for Team Trump’s foreign policy. If wars can have theme songs, why not a foreign policy of aggressive stupidity?
There are a helluva lot of lyrics, so we’ll begin with a Trump inspired video from last year. It’s chock-full-o-cartoons and other swell images.
Yeah, I know. They got the title slightly wrong. It’s okay by me: I paraphrased the lyrics in the Trump truck meme. So it goes.
I Wanna Rule The World is a very wordy song so, we’ll post the lyrics after the break.
It’s spring break time for Congress. That means that Senators and Congresscritters are back home ostensibly interacting with their constituents. In 2017, that makes this boo Republicans week. The trend started when Trumpcare was under consideration has continued: rowdy town halls packed to the rafters with jeering constituents.
According to Tiger Beat On The Potomac, those Republicans not ducking town halls have made some adjustments:
Republicans across the country appeared much more comfortable and better prepared to deal with noisy town hall crowds. Yoho didn’t fire back when he was overwhelmed by angry constituents and protesters. Rather, he’d get down on one knee and gaze directly at his questioner, absorbing any heckling until he could finish his answer. Others defused tension with jokes, waiting out hecklers or pivoting to safe talking points.
“Let’s do some more!” Coffman said when the moderator called for one last question, at an event that had already gone 45 minutes late. It was a stark contrast from a few months ago, when Coffman escaped out the back door of a town hall event that had been overrun by protesters.
Part of that newfound confidence is due to increased vetting of town hall attendees.
Coffman’s constituents, for instance, had to register and show their IDs at the door to prove they were actually constituents. Policemen also stood by and watched from the top of the auditorium. In one instance, they even escorted out a woman who make a ruckus about Coffman’s views on climate change.
Raising a ruckus is as American as apple pie. Members of Congress work for us, not vice versa, and if they can’t take the heat they should stay out of the kitchen. I’ll apologize for that string of clichés with this musical interlude:
Here in the Gret Stet of Louisiana, freshman GOP Senator John Neely Kennedy continues to duck town halls. I’m not sure what he’s so afraid of: he’s been known to handle hecklers reasonably well in the past. It’s what happens when you’re a political chameleon like Neely. He may be afraid that 2004 liberal Neely will make an appearance instead of the 2017 Trumper model.
The questions fell like hail on the impassive white face of a cardboard cutout meant to represent Sen. John Neely Kennedy, who was not present for a “citizen’s town hall” hosted April 19 at First Unitarian Universalist Church by the New Orleans and Metairie chapters of progressive organization Indivisible.
At the event, which was meant to spotlight a perceived lack of responsiveness from the Louisiana freshman senator’s office, speakers took the mic to pose inquiries to the mock Kennedy, who rested opaquely in a cardboard “office” reminiscent of Lucy’s psychiatric clinic in the “Charlie Brown” comics.
You say cardboard cut-out, I say empty chair. Let’s call the whole thing off.
This event was a follow-up to the Milk Carton Kennedy protests in March. This image of the missing Solon was all over the internet back then:
Just remember, the next chance you get to boo a Republican member of Congress, go for it. And if you happen to see Joe Wilson, greet him with a hearty, “YOU LIE.”
One more thing. I am proud of those Democrats who pitched in to help Jon Ossoff in the recent primary election. That was once Newt Gingrich’s seat, so Ossoff’s first place finish was a moral victory. And he still has a chance to win the seat as long as he and his supporters will heed Curtis Mayfield’s admonition and keep on keeping on:
Vive les Maquis.
Every time I think Team Trump cannot be more inept, they top themselves. The Insult Comedian seems to think making national security policy is like playing Battleship or Risk. His approach is certainly risky business. Uh oh, if he sees that he might call on Tom Cruise for help. He does play action heroes nowadays. Does Trump prefer Jack Reacher or Ethan Hunt? I know he’s over the artist formerly known as the Governator.
It’s quote time. It comes from a Guardian column by Richard Wolffe:
Less than 100 days into this presidency, it is blissfully clear what kind of leader Trump is. He has made the awesome transition from a neophyte candidate into a neophyte president; from a man who bluffed and blustered his way in TV debates to a man who bluffs and blusters his way through international crises.
Here is a small-time businessman who knew nothing about foreign affairs, who has grown into a nuclear-armed president who knows nothing about foreign affairs. He used to fire B-list celebrities on TV; now he just fires off tweets and Tomahawks after watching TV.
To put it mildly, it is troubling for any White House – at a time of high tensions with a rogue nuclear state – to act as dumb or duplicitous as Donald Trump. Machiavelli argued that it is better to be feared than loved. It’s also better to look like something other than a fool.
Hey, he used a fancy word with historical connotations: Armada. Of course, it evokes the disaster of the Spanish Armada, which is not the happiest analogy to make.
Since Trump is an avid teevee watcher, he really should watch the video below about the defeat of the Spanish Armada. It uses stop-animation of various foods to depict the event so it’s not too complicated for him to understand:
Day-O. That video gives a whole new meaning to the Banana Boat Song. Day-O.
I hope the president* learns something from this video. My only worry is that it might inspire him to bomb a banana plantation. We must avoid war with Chiquita at all costs.
To the extent that my .000002 cents worth could be piling on…sure, why the hell not? O’Reilly really is a cynical sack of shit, both in public and apparently in private as well, so a kick or two on his way out the door is the least he deserves…
Of course, this is also a convenient way for Faux Noise to drop an aging and over-the-hill voice anyway (not to mention that Bill’s slightly less sycophantic than other Faux, um, talent? — see Hannity, Sean — when it comes to Maximum Leader Trump)…so this is as good a time as any for his graying head to roll. And it’s not like there won’t be, I don’t know, the usual: books, interviews (will be interesting to see how he handles hostile questions…assuming he gets any)…between that and whatever money doesn’t get doled out in various settlements…the only punishment, which I guess is better than nothing at all, is the knowledge that Faux cut bait/axed him.
And handed his slot to Tucker Carlson. Laff: axed a dick, replaced him with a weenie. Hope that burns at a little.
I’m not sure if Carl G. Hoges spun a “sensational suspense story” but the cover art and tagline are both swell.
The Committee on Human Rights was something of a letdown after the dizzying heights of last week’s episode, Crossbreed. I, for one, wanted to see more of Paige and Gabriel together. The end of the previous episode led us to believe that there would be more to it than a brief, pleasant, and somewhat cryptic scene. Of course, Gabriel specializes in cryptic pleasantries.
The smile on Frank Langella’s face when he answered Paige’s inquiry as to whether he was a spy made this disappointing scene worthwhile. I wish Gabriel and Paige had burst out in song at the end of it. This would have been my choice:
Hmm, Peggy Lee was very blonde. I wonder if she was KGB? We’ll get to the same questions about Walk Away Renee later in the post.
The Committee on Human Rights is smack dab in the middle of season 5 so we shouldn’t be surprised that it set the table for the rest of the season. Besides, even a fair-to-middling episode of The Americans is better than most dramas. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: patience is the watchword for longtime Americans viewers.
Time for our spoiler break. Try not to cry over spilt Soviet milk as you click below.
Although the result was closer than expected, Turkish voters gave President Erdogan the expanded powers that he sought. The office of Prime Minister that he once held has been abolished putting all executive power in the hands of the President. Does Erdogan care that it was a squeaker? Hell no. He’s been consolidating power in his hands for years. If 51% was good enough for Brexit, it’s good enough for autocracy. Turkey has been slip sliding away towards autocracy for years and the botched coup was an accelerant. Erdogan is both smart and lucky.
I suspect you’ve heard that Trumpy was one of the first leaders to praise this Turkey of a referendum. I wonder if he got any off-the-record tips on Autocracy 101 from Erdogan. I’m certain that the Insult Comedian tipped his fez to neo-Sultan Erdogan. Since he’s unlikely to have heard of the Ottoman Empire, at least Trump won’t make any bad footstool jokes. Like that one.
It’s no shocker that Trump is happy for his Turkish counterpart. He’d like to be an elected dictator too. The good news is that he’s neither smart nor patient enough to become an American Caesar: the Turkish process has taken 13 years. But Trumpy has deeply authoritarian instincts as you can see from this tweet:
That’s classic autocrat speak: “the people love me. They have to pay protesters.” I halfway expect him to start tweeting: SOROS. SOROS. SOROS. It’s bound to happen at some point. He will, of course, use exclamation points. I am an EP refusenik.
The Turkish situation is more worrisome than the rise of autocracy in Hungary, Poland, and Serbia. They’ve had a functioning democracy for years whereas the aforementioned countries were under-as they said during the Cold War-the “Soviet yolk.” I’m not sure how they like their eggs but Erdogan just had his way with the voters so “over easy”may be it. I’m not eggsactly sure…
Back to this post’s portentous title. I’m not one of those people who believes in destiny. In the immortal words of Omar Sharif as Sherif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia:
Autocracy has made strides in the last few years but its success is NOT inevitable. Many thought the fall of the Soviet Union made the world eternally safe for democracy. Repeat after me: Nothing is written.
I remain cautiously optimistic that Marine LePen will not be elected French President. Hell, that race is so wackadoodle, that there’s an outside chance she’ll miss the run-off. If you haven’t been following that race, get thee to the Guardian. It’s such a clusterfuck that the Right wishes they could dig up Charles DeGaulle and the Left would gladly run Zombie Mitterrand instead of being as woefully divided as they are right now.
We have a president* who admires dictators and wishes he could be one. But he lacks the smarts and patience to pull it of. He will clearly leave behind an unholy mess for his successor to clean up. Hopefully, his exit will come sooner and not later but we need to be patient. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Resist Smart.
I’ll give Paul & Artie the last word:
My old friend Gus Mozart posted this Gabor Szabo cover on Zuckerbook the other day. I’d never seen it before but I liked the image immediately. And who among us does not like saying the name Gabor Szabo? He was a damn fine jazz guitarist in the tradition of Django Reinhart.
And that’s how I made this Magical Connection:
This version of the back cover is unexceptional as well as broom-free. My friend Gus informs me that it’s from a CD reissue. So it goes.
It’s time for a few musical selections including the title track and Bacharach and David’s Close To You:
In the past week or so, Donald Trump has decided not to be totally Donald Trump. He has changed his positions on many issues, often by simply contradicting himself and sometimes by repudiating what he once said. However he does it, it comes down to this: If policies were gender identities, Trump wouldn’t know which bathroom to use.
Okay, that makes TOTAL sense, except that transgender people generally do not describe themselves as having made the choice to be trans, whereas Trump has told us at least 49 times that he chose to be an anus.
And … is there not another analogy you’d reach for? In times like these? In the first place, I doubt Trump takes as much time studying policy as anyone takes finding the shitter of their choice. In the second place, just shut up, Richard Cohen, you’re not tall enough to be on this ride.
The column gets dumber.
His foreign policy 180s are welcome, but those were not what won the hearts of his ardent supporters. They wanted something more — jobs, affordable health care and a general sense that Washington would once again be their capital.
I can’t imagine what convinced them Washington WASN’T their capital the past 8 years. Can’t imagine it at all.
During the campaign, he lambasted both Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton for their relationship with the bank. “I know the guys at Goldman Sachs,” Trump said. “They have total, total control over [Cruz]. Just like they have total control over Hillary Clinton.” Now, though, the total controllers are prominent in the administration — Steven Mnuchin at Treasury and, in the White House itself, Dina Powell, the aforementioned Cohn and even the odd-man-out, Stephen K. Bannon.
This reversal by personnel was not triggered by unforeseen events — Syria’s use of a nerve agent, for instance. It is, instead, a strong indication that Trump’s campaign was a lie. His wooing of the American working class was insincere.
If only someone had warned you about 27 bajillion times, including on national television in some grand fashion. Like with a speech, before a political convention. Then you’d be spared this astonishment.
“Strong indicator.” What was your first clue you weren’t in Kansas anymore, Dorothy? The munchkins or the Technicolor?
Maybe if someone had spent less time before the election looking at that wicked, wicked female and yelling BUT HER E-MAILS AND THE FLU we could have figured out that Trump was a train wreck from day one.
Call me Ishmael. Call me anything; just don’t call me late when supper’s ready.
Last week’s astonishing series of Trump administration* foreign policy u-turns and flip flops convinced some in the MSM that the long-awaited PIVOT had come. The Insult Comedian actually got some positive press as the media drooled over the “beautiful” missiles that struck Syria. Lyin’ Brian actually out malaproped Gum Spice on that one. Instead of gushing over Trumpian manliness, the MSM should be worried about the erratic course this incompetent and incoherent administration* is steering.
While many in the MSM became tumescent over Donald’s dick waving, those of us who do satire searched (groped?) for the right analogy. As you can see above, Dr. Strangelove references are popular with the madcap zanies at Wonkette. They got there first so that’s Slim Pickens for me. That’s when a military acronym exploded in my head: MOAB.
MOAB is, of course, military speak for the mother of all bombs. They’ve been around for a while but neither Bush nor Obama wanted to drop the very big one. The Donald is made of stupider stuff: how could he resist dropping the biggest non-nuclear bomb in history? It’s like being Dirk Diggler for a day. y’all. It *almost* made us forget his teeny, tiny hands. Almost.
MOAB was tailor-made for Trump. He’s just another boomer chicken hawk whose manhood is linked in his own mind with weaponry. Bombs are glimmering phalluses hence MOAB Dick. I have the feeling that the Insult Comedian never finished Moby Dick, so he might want to pick up one of these nifty comix. Cliff’s Notes are so un-presidential.
It’s from 1942, so it’s older and rarer than Trump-hab. His white whale was the White House, which has become such an Albatross that he spends every weekend at Mar-A-Lugee. We’re also treated to endless stories of the struggle between Bannon and young Jared as they vie to be Ishmael to Trump’s Ahab. The Melville character was the sole survivor of the Pequod and narrated Moby Dick. My money is on Jared. He married the boss’ daughter and gave the president* grandchirren. All Bannon gave him was the White House. Jared is blood. Blood trumps everything in Trump World: “Call me Jared. I survived.” He *is* a two-legged cockroach, after all.
Back to the dangerous situation caused by Trump’s face off with pipsqueak North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. They’re actually peas in a very crazy pod. Both will do *anything* for attention, which is why the Obama administration’s policy of’ “strategic patience” was a wise one. When a toddler pitches a tantrum at the dinner table, one can either ignore them or go the time-out route. Never give them what they want: attention and approval. That’s what the world needs to do with both of these baby men: put them in time-out.
Our Asian allies are noticeably unenthusiastic about toddler tantrum as policy:
Those in the US&A who would like a manly “preemptive strike” on North Korea forget the fact that it’s the Republic of Korea that will suffer the consequences. It’s a friendly nation, and has become a democracy during my lifetime. South Korea is going through a painful political scandal and has no appetite for Trumper dick waving. I wonder if he even knows about the impeachment and indictment of former President Park Guen-hye?
The Darnold is a profoundly, indeed militantly, ignorant man. He was convinced until recently that China could order North Korea to knock it off. Wrong.The Kim family dynasty have long been China’s crazy communist cousin. The PRC has influence but Kim Jong-un and his generals run the show in Pyongyang. I’m waiting for another overgrown toddler, Dennis Rodman, to revive wormplomacy and offer to serve as an intermediary. The Insult Comedian might take him up on it: Rodman appeared on Celebrity Apprentice twice. I hear the ratings were better than on Arnold’s watch. Believe me.
Another thing strikes me about Trump’s new role as MOAB Dick to the world. He’s facing off with two family dynasties in Syria and North Korea. Perhaps that’s why he thinks he can solve these problems: he learned about dynastic power at Fred Trump’s dinner table. The Assads and the Kims, however, put the nasty in dynasty. They’re not going anywhere even though we all wish they would. It’s much harder than dealing with other developers, gangsters, Ed Koch, and Gary Busey. Believe me.
Team Trump’s effort in wagging the dog and distracting attention from their scandals has been surprisingly effective. It’s the only thing they’ve gotten right thus far, but the act isn’t going over very well in Seoul and Tokyo. It’s time for them to put the MOAB Dick back in their pants and zip it about North Korea. Twitplomacy won’t work any better than wormplomacy despite Rodman’s tremendous tattoos. Believe me.
I didn’t plan to write such a long post. I guess the Melville geist has taken hold. It’s time to meet Bartleby the Scrivener for coffee. I hope he doesn’t consider me the Melvillain of the piece…
So – The Darnold decided to bomb the fuck out of Syria to
distract everyone from the rolling clusterfuck that is his administration avenge the dead babies. What could have turned him from a “Crooked Hillary wants to get us in wars” isolationist/fuck NATO kinda guy into George Patton II? Advice from his Generals? Advice from his (heh) National Insecurity Council? His astrologer?
Funny you should ask.
Eric Trump: Ivanka Convinced President Trump to Strike Syria
Eric Trump: Ivanka Convinced President Trump to Strike Syria
pjmedia.com/thedailytelegraph ^ | 4/11/17 | Tyler O’Neil
Posted on 4/11/2017 4:19:04 PM by ColdOne
President Donald Trump’s 33-year-old son Eric told Britain’s The Daily Telegraph that his sister Ivanka, rather than her husband Jared Kushner, convinced the U.S. head of state to launch 59 Tomahawk missiles in retaliation for a sarin gas attack last week.
“Ivanka is a mother of three kids and she has influence. I’m sure she said ‘listen, this is horrible stuff.’ My father will act in times like that,” Eric Trump told The Telegraph in an interview at the Trump Turnberry golf resort in Ayrshire, Scotland.
“He also confirmed that President Trump’s decision to bomb a Syrian airbase … was influenced by the reaction of his sister Ivanka, who said she was ‘heartbroken and outraged’ by the atrocity,” the British paper reported.
To: BRLWhat’s going to happen when a world event coincides with her being in PMS
The Navy will launch 59 frying pans instead of cruise missiles?
To: Rebel2016Ivanka, go back to NYC, leave military business to your dad.
Agreed….and…..take your husband with you.
Art Cullen, the 60-year-old editor of the Storm Lake Times, doesn’t bother with rinky-dink journalism contests. “I don’t need a wooden plaque or a piece of paper,” Cullen told the Erik Wemple Blog on Monday. That’s when he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing at the twice-weekly Storm Lake Times in Iowa. “They give you 15 grand. That’s worth it,” said Cullen.
So how’s Cullen and Co. spending the money? “We intend to put a jag on, then donate the rest of the money half to IFOIC and other local charities, probably all the other half to Catholic Charities to help resettle refugees in Storm Lake. After the bash, that means IFOIC gets $5 and the refugees get a Big Mac and fries,” writes Cullen in an email.
I have a feeling it’s going to be a bit more than that.
President Donald Trump has increasingly infused references to God into his prepared remarks — calling on God to bless all the world after launching strikes in Syria, asking God to bless the newest Supreme Court Justice, invoking the Lord to argue in favor of a war on opioids.
That … isn’t finding religion. It’s finding a sales pitch.
For, let us be clear, war, war and more war.
“I’ve always felt the need to pray,” Trump said in that late-January interview. “The office is so powerful that you need God even more because your decisions are no longer, ‘Gee I’m going to build a building in New York.’ … These are questions of massive, life-and-death.”
FAITH IS NOT FIRE INSURANCE. You do not get to torch the place and be like, “Well, I prayed about it.” This is why I find so much born-again rhetoric bankrupt. There’s no such thing as a clean slate.
“I believe the weight of the office that he now holds and the burden of responsibility that it carries is humbling him somewhat and causing him to acknowledge and admit his reliance on God,” said Darrell Scott, an Ohio pastor who has known Trump for six years and supported Trump’s campaign and served on his transition team.
FAITH IS ALSO NOT A BOOTY CALL. (Says the girl who frequently Sees Other Deities yet winds up outside church with a boombox over her head every December blaring O Come O Come Emanuel, but I’m me, and not the president, and I’ve never claimed to be anything but a sinner who does not expect forgiveness.)
The White House did not respond to questions about whether Trump has been attending church as president, and if he has, it has been without the knowledge of White House pool reporters.
Still, Trump’s frequent invocations of God in his remarks as of late are a change from both his past life as a businessman and his time on the campaign trail.
So he hasn’t been going to church (which, let’s be fair, no more makes you a Christian than pulling into the garage makes you a car), he’s pursued policies of war and suffering and exclusion (which actually SHOULD disqualify you from from the Flock), but he’s USING MOAR JESUS WORDS HERE ARE A THOUSAND POLITICO ANALYSIS THINGS.
I hate our political journalism right now.
We’re used to seeing our national bird as a valiant hero in nature documentaries plucking salmon from pristine streams, on the back of every dollar bill in our wallets, or on pretty much every federal seal — from the NSA and the CIA to the office of the president. But in Dutch, especially in winter when it’s harder for them to catch fish, you can see eagles for what they really are: hardy, scrappy scavengers.
Turns out that when you live with a federal symbol up close and personal, day in and day out, it’s a little harder to think of them as majestic. Bald eagles show up in the local police blotter alongside reports of drunk fishermen passing out in the wrong bunk or taking off in someone else’s forklift.
My first morning in Dutch I went down to KUCB, the local TV and radio station, to ask people for their eagle stories. Before I’d gone off the air I was getting calls and texts. One man drove straight over to the station in his snowplow to catch me before I’d left the parking lot. Everyone in town has an eagle story, usually more than one.
Sixteen-year-old Ethan Iszler was walking back to school eating a piece of pepperoni pizza when an eagle came, seemingly from nowhere, and stole it right out of his hand.
Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. I’m not religious but I was raised Greek Orthodox. This year Greek Easter is the same day as what my most pious relative calls “American Easter.” My memories of Easter revolve around food: leg of lamb was always the main course at our house. I may not celebrate the holiday but I wish those of you who do well.
In Easter related news, it looks as if Team Trump is screwing up the annual White House Easter egg roll. It’s typically an East Wing thing but Melania lives in Manhattan and nobody else seems to be in charge. Holy symbolic ineptitude, Batman. I hear Harvey and Bugs Bunny are organizing a protest…
This week’s theme song is Nick Lowe’s best known and loved song, (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding. Nick himself is not madly in love with his most famous song:
“Everyone seems to know it. But it’s never been a hit, a hit song so to speak, on the charts,” says Lowe, reflecting on the song’s legacy. “It is really strange — and I don’t want to sound too, kinda, ‘wet’ — ‘cause when I hear it, it doesn’t really sort of sound like my song any more. I don’t feel hugely possessive about it.”
“The song had a rather humorous birth,” he says. “It was written, initially, from the point of view of an old hippie who was still sticking to his guns and seeing his kind of followers all suddenly wearing pointy-toed shoes and drinking cocktails. … It’s like they had come to their senses, rediscovered alcohol and cocaine. … They were rather embarrassed that they’d ever been hippies … and thought the hippie thing rather funny.
“And he’s saying to them: ‘Well, you all think I’m an idiot. You’re sniggering now. But all I’m saying — and you can’t argue with this — is what’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?’”
I’m presenting three versions for your amusement. First, the 1974 original recorded with the pub-rock band, Brinsley Schwarz. Then the Elvis Costello rendition that put the tune on the map; it was produced by Nick. Finally, the way I like it best: a solo acoustic version by the songwriter himself.
One thing that *is* funny about Nick Lowe is that his hair is still awesome. I should hate him for that but I’m trying to be a bigger man. I am, however, fuming over the injustice of it all right now. It’s best to insert a break at this point while I take a deep breath.
I was working the newsroom this week, when my wife sent me a photo with the caption, “Who are these people?” It turned out to be a “Save the Date” card from two of my former students who found love while finishing off their degrees here.
The editor in chief of the paper poked her head over my shoulder and asked what was up.
“I just got a Save the Date card from Ashley and Isaac,” I explained.
She had a blank stare on her face.
“You were here when Isaac was the managing editor, weren’t you?”
Again, a total blank stare. It was at that point it dawned on me that although the kid I was speaking with was 22 and ready to graduate, even she wasn’t old enough to remember a kid who was practically running the newsroom two years earlier.
I often joke that I have “grad-nesia,” an illness that blurs the lines among generations of students to the point where I swear someone just graduated last year while they’ve actually been out of school for half a decade. The truth, however, is a bit more complicated, in that the institutional memory of college institutions is tiny at best. “Back in the day,” for most of my staff was about 18 months ago. “A long time ago,” was two years.
Something that happened 10 years ago? It has the same social relevance of the Tea Pot Dome Scandal or the Bull Moose Party. Even if that event shook the entire nation to its core.
Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre. Student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 students and faculty on campus while wounding another 17 over a three-hour time period before ending his own life. Even in that time of nascent social media, the pure insanity of the event exploded through digital channels and traditional media in a way that kept everyone in the country linked into the devastation.
I had a personal interest in that shooting, as I was pretty close with the general manager of the student newspaper out there. I also knew the editorial adviser. Our student media listserv was flying with questions and concerns for those folks. Both of them were named “Kelly” (one guy, one gal) which led to some “which one?” questions as we all tried to reach them. I finally got a hold of female Kelly and she told me she was safe, things were crazy and her staff was working, so she was probably going to be off the grid for quite some time. At that point, I was able to breathe again.
As my staff watched from safety 1,000 miles away, none of us knew what to do. Our EIC suggested we send pizza, so we did. It was a typical college-kid move, but we weren’t the only ones to think, “Hey, maybe they’re hungry.” Professional and collegiate news staffs from all over the country did similar things to the point where the staff of the Collegian had to ask, “Hey, guys, we appreciate this, but could you stop now?”
The student paper did some incredible work over that amount of time, including obituaries for each of the 32 victims of the shootings. I remember watching male Kelly give a speech on this less than a year later at a journalism convention. He explained that most of his staff was comprised of cub reporters and non-journalism folk. The university didn’t have a journalism feeder program, so this was truly an extra-curricular endeavor for most of them. If the newsroom he had was anything like some of the ones I’ve worked with, you had a handful of kids who had a passion for journalism, a group of folks who were told at one point they were good writers so they showed up to write and a bunch of students who came for the access to sporting events and concerts and to write columns about what they thought was important.
None of them was ready for this. Nor should they have been.
The thing that I remember most about Kelly’s speech was that he talked about gathering his staff and explaining how the newspaper was going to handle the situation on obituaries. The first question a kid raised is the most obvious one: “Nobody is going to want to talk to us. How are we supposed to do this?”
Kelly’s answer is one I use to this day: You might be right. People might not want to talk to you, but you don’t have the right to take that choice away from them. You approach them respectfully and you offer them the chance to speak. If they decline, you express gratitude and you leave. But don’t take away their chance because you’re afraid.
In the end, those obituaries were stocked with sources and stories that captured the essence of 32 people who never made it past April 16, 2007 and propelled the paper to a Pacemaker Award and national prominence.
I have to admit that 10 years have put this story to the back of my mind as well. The year after the Virginia Tech shooting, the Northern Illinois Shooting happened and that one struck a little closer to home. I had interviewed there for a job at one point and many years before, my grandfather had been in the police department in DeKalb, the city surrounding the university. After that, we seemed to be stockpiling shootings and disasters to the point that “Virginia Tech” became less of a euphemism than it once had been.
I also have to admit, it’s easy for things on a university campus to wash away quickly. My first year in Indiana, we had a student get shot and killed by a cop. The name of Michael McKinney was everywhere for more than a year. We covered that story from the shooting through the civil suit and there wasn’t a student alive on that campus who didn’t know that story.
Fast forward to the fifth-year anniversary of the shooting and I told my editor we needed to do the anniversary story on the McKinney shooting.
I got the same blank look my EIC gave me just this week: “Who?”
As far as most schools are concerned, the short-attention-span theater is a blessing in disguise. When horrific things happen in some cities and towns, family members still live there and those moments of pain become imbued in the fabric of the society. Events of agony live on from generation to generation. In the case of colleges, four years can wash away pretty much everyone in the student base who knew what happened. The memories fade to rumor and history.
In the case of the Virginia Tech Shooting, the students there are refusing to let the memory of those 32 people go unnoticed this year. Several cadets are asking that the new residence hall be named for Matthew LaPorte, a sophomore ROTC member who gave is own life to save countless others when the shooter broke through LaPorte’s classroom barricade. The staff of the newspaper published a special edition titled “We Remember 32,” which is complete with a set of 32 stories of the 32 people who died that day. An online version is available here as well.
It’s hard to remember and easy to forget.
But some things need, even if painful, need to be commemorated.