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Monday, June 12, 2017

Rhiannon Giddens--Wow Concert

On Saturday night at the intimate Kentucky Country Day theater, Rhiannon Giddens and her excellent back-up musicians wowed a sold-out crowd.

Giddens performed a number of songs before a wildly enthusiastic audience. I'll mention just a few of the highlights.

Rhiannon Giddens sang "Waterboy", one of her well-known songs. It's an old song, previously made popular by folksinger Odetta, where the singer is calling the waterboy to come out of hiding or she will tell on him to his pa.

In Rhiannon's performance of the song, if I were the "waterboy" I would've come out quick, fearing the singer far more than anything any pa could do.

She also covered Patsy Cline's "She’s Got You". Giddens has a voice to rival Patsy Cline. But her delivery was quite different.

Sitting in the fourth row, I felt the intensity of the anger in the song towards the woman who had taken her man. Giddens was not just the voice of a wronged or sad woman. Hers was the voice of an angry, possibly homicidal woman. If I were the guilty party, I would have made haste to exit the auditorium and relinquish all claims to the man in question. That was how powerful her rendition of the song was.

Giddens also sang songs based on research into true stories of African slaves. One song, "At the Purchaser’s Option", was heart wrenching. It told the story of a young slave woman, the mother of a nine-month-old, who was listed for sale with her baby available too, "at the purchaser’s option.”
Leading into the song, Rhiannon explained that as a mother she could imagine the heartbreak of being separated from her children. The audience felt that heartbreak on a visceral level.

The most moving song for me was based on the fable that some African slaves had the ability to fly but while some still could fly others had forgotten that trait after they had been brought to this country in chains.

Rhiannon told of a mother and daughter. The mother had carried from her mother the story of the ability to fly. She told her daughter that when the daughter felt the tingling in her arms she would know she had the ability. At some point the daughter began to feel that tingling in her arms and she and her mother flew away from slavery and into paradise.

I'm about as white-bread Caucasian as they come and by training and experience, a lawyer who deals in facts. So far as I know I have no African-American ancestors. So far as I know I also am not particularly susceptible to suggestions. But as Giddens sang, I literally began to feel both my arms tingle. The feeling spread up through the back of my scalp. I've never felt anything like this before. As Rhiannon sang, I began to wonder if I too had the ability to fly.

After the concert, we briefly stopped by the merchandise table to have a couple of CDs signed by Rhiannon. I told her it was a transcendental concert and her singing gave me goosebumps.

I used the word “goosebumps” for lack of a better word at the time. But it is not sufficient to describe what I felt at this concert. 

With a power that may be older than education, careers, and racial divisions, Giddens’ songs, storytelling and truly amazing voice transports her audience into another world. Rhiannon Giddens has a voice and a delivery that is a once-in-a- generation. If you have the opportunity to see her in person do so. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

An Unsuitable Nest Being Feathered

I've only posted a fraction of what I've written about Donald Trump. The trouble with being a casual writer focusing occasionally on current events, since Trump has hit the big time, is that everything changes in the space of an hour or two. The controversies, stories of corruption and chaos bloom like weeds in my garden faster than I can pull them.

Thus, whatever I have written becomes outdated in the length of time it takes me to water my outdoor flowers. If I want to write anything that is even remotely timely I find I’m constantly starting over.

As of last night, a special counsel has been appointed to the Justice Department to oversee the Russia / Trump investigation. There may be some totally new, shocking and outrageous development since last I looked. Please forgive me for missing whatever has occurred in Turmpland. I had flowers, birds’ nests and a collie dog to attend to.

Maybe last night’s appointment of a special investigator finally will give us a day or two of calm. The pundits’ pronouncements are filled with discussions of impeachment, 25th Amendment removals, and the possibility of resignation by President Trump.

There's also lots of talk about White House staffers, like rats on a sinking ship getting ready to jump overboard. So, there's no guarantee that any calm will remain long enough for an inquiry to get to the bottom of possible collusion with the Russians, violations of the emoluments clause or just outright corruption. I think those who are doing the investigation and pundit pondering may have some of the same issues I have. New revelations and shocking allegations continue to pour out faster than water from my hose on full blast.

Here’s my take: much of the problem with the Trump administration appears to be the stupidity and arrogance of the main character. Of course that does not excuse corruption, collusion with hostile foreign powers, unconstitutional acts, or just garden variety crimes that may have occurred. I do feel some genuine pity for those who work for him. But then I ask myself--why do they stay? Only they can answer that question.

On a lighter note, while I was looking away from the Trumpland’s blooming debacle, I discovered today the birds have been back at building a nest in our front door wreath.

Several weeks ago, a fully built nest had appeared overnight in the wreath, intricately woven within the new wreath I'd bought for our front door. It would be a nice spot for a birds' nest, since it's in a protected area under an overhang. I even think the birds, like I, may have appreciated the aesthetic design of the large, colorful and diverse flowers because they nestled the nest slightly hidden behind some of the large flowers. Except for the thing about the wreath, and thus the nest, being on the front door and people trying to go through that front door, that spot would have been perfect. 

If we'd been paying attention, we might have put together the facts of the tapping on the house and that our dog was barking frequently at the front door the day the nest was built. But with a collie dog there's always barking. And we have a lot of birds tapping here and there around the house.

I realize a lot of work must've gone into building that nest. On the other hand, anytime we went in or out through the front door, or let a visitor in or out, we ran the risk that a bird would fly into the house or any eggs deposited in the nest would go flying onto the front porch. While I felt slightly monstrous pulling that nest out of the wreath, it seemed the better part of valor to remove the nest before eggs were deposited therein.

Since then we’ve tried to discourage any further building of nests in that particular location. Every day we've been checking the wreath to make sure no new nest appears.

Today, was another unseasonably hot day. I watered the flowers on the back deck and continually tried to discourage our collie from eating the hydrangea leaves in the yard. Something he just recently decided is a canine delicacy. Just as I shooed him away from one hydrangea plant, he started to munch on another.

Then I went out front to water the potted flowers on the front steps. I found debris under the wreath along with the start of a new nest. I sighed before I disposed of debris and this new, partially built nest.

I guess one should try to be philosophical. Creatures return to whatever is in their nature. Our dog will keep trying to eat the leaves in our flower garden. Birds will continue to build nests in places that, for whatever inexplicable reason, appeal to them.

Had we, the American people, been paying close enough attention to the barking and tapping noises of construction by a shockingly unprepared and unsuited inhabitant of our White House, we might earlier have noticed before the current resident took to feathering his nest there. It appears our current President will continue to create chaos, mess, and corruption for so long as he resides in an office for which he is so ill suited.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

100 Days of Trump

Some journalists are making lists for 100 days of Trump. Others are asking the citizenry to assign grades. So, I’ll give Trump a grade--a solid F. I’d give him a lower grade if there were one.

I think that grade deserves a reasoned explanation, so here are three of the many reasons we could cite.

First, Trump has threatened our very democracy with his assaults on the courts, the press and the truth. Discussion to follow in next blog post.

Second, Trump is a liar and a bluffer. Neither our allies nor our enemies know when he is serious.  This could be an existential threat since Trump uses lies and bluffs against nuclear-armed powers with little apparent plan for the consequences. 

Trump has, on occasion, engaged in truth telling. He now says he’s learned healthcare is complicated. He says no one knew. Ha ha. But seriously, he also was astonished to learn that dealing a with nuclear North Korea is complicated. No one—that is Trump—knew that fact until now.

Trump acknowledges that trying to get legislation through Congress is hard. In his first 100 days, despite Trump’s threats, bullying, and bluffing he has not managed to pass any of the major laws he campaigned on.

No legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. 

No legislation to fund his great wall.

No legislation to bring back jobs. (Executive orders to eliminate regulations that protect workers and the environment have not resulted in job growth.)

No big tax-cut legislation. (A one-page list of how to give more money to Trump and his fellow billionaires is not a plan for a tax cut to help average Americans. It’s not even a tax plan.)

Third, Trump is totally unprepared and unqualified to serve as President. As he now admits, being President is actually harder than being a real estate “mogul” who licenses his name. I suppose it also is harder than being a reality TV star. This should not have been a surprise to a ten-year old. But it was to Trump.

On more campaign promises than I can list, Trump has changed his mind. This definitely is a case of less is more. The less Trump accomplishes or even tries to do, the better it is for all of us. If only he would devote his full efforts to golf until Congress gets around to impeaching him.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Escape with "Firefly"

If you are in serious need of some diversions from the fiasco known as Trump World, here's an escapist suggestion for what you might consider watching.

I like sci fi and westerns, even when you combine them. But as I mentioned in an earlier post, the latest TV combination of sci fi and western-themed series, WestWorld, is too vile and inhuman to be an appealing diversion.  Much like real-life Trump World.

If you are looking for sci-fi with a western feel a better choice than WestWorld is the 2002 TV series Firefly. Or the subsequent movie, Serenity, that wrapped up loose ends left by Firefly’s cancellation.

 If you haven’t seen either series or movie, in a nutshell, five hundred years in the future, the Captain, Mal, (Nathan Fillion) of the Firefly spaceship is sort of Hans Solo-ish before he met Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia. And he has never heard of The Force.

Firefly also is absent most of the high-techy stuff and CGI so at times when the crew lands on a backwards planet, the show has the feel of an old western series. 

In concept, though, this is a space ship of the future. The usual assumptions on people's professions and status are sometimes turned on their heads from what we expect in current times. The first mate is a Black woman warrior, the only other survivor of the Captain's command from the Battle of Serenity. Her husband is a funny guy who cherishes his strong wife, plays with action figures and quite capably pilots the ship. 

A slightly built woman is the skilled mechanic. She harbors a crush on the ship's doctor, a formerly wealthy and well-connected member of the elite. He joined the ship as a passenger under false pretenses because he is on the run. He rescued, and then smuggled onto Firefly, his younger sister, a savant who was kidnapped and experimented upon by the government. 

The highest-status person on Firefly is a prostitute. In the future times of Firefly, high-tone prostitutes are known as Registered Companions and are reminiscent of geisha in that they are trained in certain fine arts. 

These Companions are like ambassadors who can go wherever they wish, choose whom they wish to see and provide respectability, cover, and entrĂ©e for the ship and its crew. 

Nonetheless, Captain Mal, either from jealousy or some vestigial sense of a centuries-old morality, is galled by the professional activities of Morena Baccarin's Companion Inara. The viewer is left wondering if the beautiful Companion Inara will ever leave her profession and she and Mal will end up a futuristic "item". 

 Many episodes involve horses, trains, miners covered in mud; under-handed bad guys often engage in bar brawls with the diverse and engaging crew. as double-crosses, hijinks and encounters or escapes from the Reavers, space-bogeymen who are cannibals and responsible for all manner of not-quite-human cruelty.  

Unfortunately, Firefly lasted less than one season. But fortunately, it’s available on DVD, Amazon Video or Netflix.

Mal, the Captain, who claims to now be apolitical, fought unsuccessfully against the Alliance but named his ship, Serenity, after the bloodiest and last battle of the lost war. The overriding theme of both Firefly and Serenity is that Mal, though a thief and crook at times, in the end demonstrates leadership and a strong sense of loyalty to his crew as well as basic humanity and an overriding concern for those who are suffering. 

If only that were the reality of our leadership in 2017 Trump World. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

West Wing or WestWorld

No one would blame you if you are binge-watching fantasy worlds.  I admit I am.


We’ve found ourselves alternating between the past and the future. On some nights, we binge-watch West Wing, Aaron Sorkin’s creation of a principled, intelligent President, Jeb Bartlett, portrayed by Martin Sheen.


West Wing may be every liberal’s dream of how a good, intelligent man struggles to rationally resolve the problems faced in the Oval Office. Something we most likely will not see for at least four years except on TV.


On other nights, we watch science fiction. WestWorld also is escapism with a nod to both those good old days in the wild west and a futuristic world where androids have been created to suffer the havoc man inflicts on other men and women in a place where there are no societal rules. I’ll leave it to you whether we will see more of that in real life.


The TV series, WestWorld is based on a 1970s Michael Crichton film of the same name. It brings to mind other Crichton creations, such as Jurassic Park. In both cases, man’s hubris in scientific explorations and development is his downfall because he failed to give adequate consideration to the consequences.


Crichton’s vision of an android-populated amusement park where men can kill or inflict harm on human-looking creations for no reason other than their own enjoyment, is a good tool for asking why. It’s just not very much fun to watch.


I hoped WestWorld would provide some diversion. Instead, it’s only taken a few WestWorld episodes for me to dread seeing men blithely kill and rape others, even knowing the others are androids.


We could easily analyze and discuss in detail how both West Wing and WestWorld provide valuable insight into America’s current situation. Without writing a college essay I’ll only mention a few points.


For example, how little we’ve considered the consequences of our actions. Have we let our media and unfettered technology run riot on our sacred political system, now tainted beyond recognition, by fake news and Russian hacking? How much has our media been complicit in this debacle because Trump gives good ratings?


We are days away from installing a dangerous, former reality show host who is so narcissistic he apparently doesn’t care about the fake news or the Russian influence of our political system, because they benefited him in the election. Who also claims, without explanation, to know more about the hacking than anyone else. Perhaps he does.


How this type of illegitimate election can be allowed to stand is beyond belief, as it will result in the installation of a scoundrel and know-nothing as the most powerful man in the free world.


But enough about the real world.


One series I’m looking forward to in the new season is The Americans. This award-winning series brings to life Russian spies embedded in American society passing as ordinary Americans. I’ve heard tell the 2017 series will open in current time with a Russian plant passing as an anything but an ordinary American. Hold your breath for his next tweet.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Deck the Halls or Not a creature is stirring…ooh…a dead mouse

Well it’s that happiest time of year. When we go all out: Christmas shopping, baking holiday goodies, and decorating everything.

Just yesterday I was at physical therapy. They were hanging blinking lights on the equipment, wreaths on the doors, and warned they’d cover me with tinsel if I didn’t move a little faster.

Luckily, it was about time to head home to do a little decorating of our own. We are in a new—to us—house. Our new home has the same number of bedrooms and baths as the old but is a single story with very tall, cathedral ceilings.

It’s been an interesting project figuring what fits where. You do know, interesting, is the all-purpose word when you don’t want to resort to a curse word.

Some decorations, though perhaps “dated” as the stylists like to say, or even a bit ragged from many years of usage, still carry memories of Christmas past and work just fine, at least in our opinion. But then some other decorations don’t. And there are some total gaps.

For example, we now have a very tall, white brick fireplace that cries out for some type of decoration. We don’t own any decorations large enough for the scale of the fireplace. So, we came up with a plan: buy some new decoration and hang it from the one large nail the previous owners had placed high up on the bricks of the fireplace.

With some perusing online I found and ordered a very large, pre-lit, battery-operated wreath with a timer. Our plan was once we got this sucker up we wouldn’t have to mess with it again until it was time to take it down. A very good plan. Execution was another matter.

The wreath arrived on our doorstep without incident.  My husband dragged out the extension ladder and, together, though not without struggle, we got the batteries in the wreath, a bow attached, and the wreath way up high.

Stepping back, with our heads titled all the way back, we soon realized the wreath was WAY too high for the room. Anyone would get a crick in their neck looking at it. Did I mention I’ve been going to physical therapy for persistent neck, back and shoulder pain? This wreath was not going to help. But maybe moving it wouldn’t either. In any event, the wreath came down.

My husband then fashioned a clever hanger from an ordinary white metal clothes hanger. And the wreath was now at about the right height.

Feeling smug at our accomplishment, though my husband was muttering something about how he hoped the hanger, wreath and all didn’t fall, he then attempted to replace two of the floodlights in the very tall ceiling. He was using a pole gizmo with attachments he’d ordered online and was standing near the top of the extension ladder.

All went well with one light, but the other refused to budge from the socket and instead retreated as if it were a sunken eye of Blue Beard the Pirate. There was no way we could reach the dead bulb now. Well, maybe instead of Christmas decorations we should be using a pirate party theme?

I should mention, in all the “deck the hall’ing” and changing light bulbs, a lamp was broken and wreath debris had somehow gotten everywhere. We were a bit bloodied but not quite ready to give up on decorating. Since we’d have to clean up anyway, and the ladder and the tubs of Christmas decorations were still out we thought we’d at least spread some of the old, pre-lit garland on top of our new, very tall, white bookcases on either side of the chimney. We thought that would be a nice, relatively easy, decorating touch.

After putting batteries in the garland, positioning the ladder, and taking some deep breaths, my husband climbed up on the ladder again as I handed up the garland. He promptly handed the garland back, now covered with dust and cobwebs. And he asked if I could bring him an old, plastic container (about the size of a mouse) and a trash bag. A dead mouse had been sprawled on top of the tall bookcase.

Suffice it to say, we got the lighted garland up eventually and the mouse properly disposed of. The house now is even tidied a bit from the wreck we’d made of it.

And we have to admit our house is starting to look a bit more Christmas-y. But the Christmas tree is still not yet up. In a year of optimism, we had bought a pre-lit, simple, three-part construction Christmas tree that every year creates havoc because it never quite reassembles the way the directions claim and some of the lights refuse to come on.

The tree will be a project for next week. I suppose I should sign up for a double dose of physical therapy.  I just hope the therapists have finished their decorating. We’ve had enough fun for now.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Trump World--Can we please go back to a different future?

I’m trying to move past hysteria, depression and anger over the election. Focus on Thanksgiving, I tell myself. Focus on the turkey. Or write about concerts, shopping, other topics. After all, I said this blog was to be about the amusing things of life with only an occasional burst of seriosity. But I’m having trouble finding the usual things amusing.

Why this sense of doom? After all, our nation has survived many things: terrorist attacks, ill-thought-out wars, outrageous wrong-doings by our chief executive, assassinations, and dangerously ill-informed Presidents. No doubt some previous Presidents were narcissists and money-grubbing.

But this is somehow different. Never before have we teetered into banana-republic, alternate time-line reality. Biff Tannen has been elected President in “Back to the Future 4.0”. Trump is just as grabby, greedy, and dangerous as Biff only somehow this is real life.

The broken promises to Trump supporters are almost too numerous to name. Trump acknowledges there is a connection between human activity and climate change. Bringing back coal, torture of suspects or lost American manufacturing jobs are all pretty much the things dreams (or in some cases, nightmares) and campaign promises are made of. So why am I not reassured?

And as for all those chants of “lock her up”? Those were reality TV theater. Trump commonly called Hillary crooked. But he now admits he has no plans to prosecute Hillary. I should be satisfied.

But there never were any grounds to lock up Hillary. She has been investigated as extensively as any public figure and no criminal acts were ever found.  So, the dropping of that campaign promise is surprising only in its rapidity. The real reason the “lock her up” promise has been dropped like a hot potato is Hillary’s alleged wrongdoing is so miniscule compared to the crookedness of all things Trump.

Not just America but the whole world is up for grabs as Trump begins to stamp his giant Trump logo everywhere.

The campaign promises have fallen with record-breaking speed by the way side. But what is really scary is that Trump’s world view and policy positions are as thin as his skin. Whatever he has heard most recently is what he’s planning to do next. Whomever he’s speaking to now is whom he agrees with. If he’s at the NY Times, they are a jewel of a newspaper. Well that’s just fine. Until he goes back and talks to the racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-gay and otherwise hate-filled advisers he’s selected.

Trump is not yet President and already we have a daily competition to see what is the worst to spew from the Trump carnival.

The Trumpster has an amazing ability. He creates so many controversies that the talking heads and pundits are issuing statements about how many positions Trump has flipped on in the last twenty-four hours. Which of the disasters are real (the conflicts of interest) and which are just sleight of hand and a distraction (twitter battles with the cast of “Hamilton” and the New York Times).

Meanwhile Trump brags the value of his brand has greatly increased since the election. The Trump “charity” admits to the IRS its self-dealing and violations. Trump easily makes time while selecting a Cabinet to meet with foreign dignitaries and ask for special deals for his investments.

Trump has no fears. He will be President so no one can do anything about his conflicts of interest. In fact, he declares, much like Nixon, that as President he cannot break the law or have conflicts. That is what one would expect from Biff. Or the “President” of a banana republic.

You wanted our infrastructure rebuilt? That is one of the main functions of government. The Republicans refused to fund it under Obama. Under Trump get ready for infrastructure re-building. That is, if you want to privatize that infrastructure and slap tolls on America so Trump’s family and cronies can start collecting double-digit returns on investment at our expense.

I just can’t stomach the idea of our roads, bridges and airports bearing a big Trump logo as we pay our tolls to the Trump Enterprise to enter public spaces. Can you?