Thursday, July 28, 2016

Five Tricks to Survive the Inferno

by Meg Sonata

While the heat wave of 2016 is setting records, consider these five ways to outwit Nature's fury. Consider also that Nature is a Mother of one sort or another. She comes with lakes and blue skies as well as deserts and tornadoes. So, while you are reading Dante's Inferno, on this perfect occasion, keep in mind that Dante could see the universe as a whole, and it is dimes to donuts that Mother Nature functions that way, too. Dante did not stop with the Inferno. He wrote the Purgatorio and Paradiso to complete his vision of the Divine Comedy, so those are next after we climb out of this swamp of sweat and fire.

First, if you experience dizziness, this symptom may result from excessive exposure to political party conventions. Don't worry. It's dimes to donuts, too, that their participants have never heard of Dante's Inferno, or Virgil, who would have reminded those inebriated in sweat not to dive to conclusions. Keep in mind that Christian thinkers have promised for centuries that "this too shall pass." History texts verify that this promise is valid. If there is the slightest chance, however, that your dizziness results from heat exhaustion, then remember to EAT. Your body may lie to you, and claim it just can't swallow a single bite during this heat wave. Offer your body donuts for breakfast or cherry pie. Swallow those down with your favorite beverage, and stay hydrated. Then, see if dizziness retreats. If it hangs around, check with your doctor to see if s/he is reading Dante's Inferno, too.

Second, get the jump on the fire swamp by rising early. Walk your family pet as far as both of you can stagger. Take photos if you need to, in order to record this landscape as still green and breathing. Later, your eyes may trick you into believing that humidity has conquered all. Allergies may also produce tears which convince you that you are crying, but that's just your body lying to you again. If you are going to reach TOMORROW, you can't believe liars, no matter how cute or familiar they are. Remember where Dante puts liars: in the Inferno. Instead, it is your task to get to Dante's Purgatorio, where suffering at least accomplishes something, and at last to reach the Paradiso, where suffering disappears.

Third, jump into that car, and take it for a spin as early as possible. Schedule all your errands as early as possible. Open those car windows, and let that cool breeze whip away those tears and sweat. Make your purchases at stores where the exhausted proprietors are open and ready for business before the day's Inferno begins. Share your misery with them, too. You may be surprised to discover that, as ever, we are in this weather debacle together. That's not just a political slogan, to meke rioters 
jump and cheer. It's actually a truth of human experience. If you can comfort a single soul in misery, you may forget that your dog had to wake you from a wicked torpor which seemed endless. Mother Nature's call means more than finding a convenient tree or fire hydrant--and that creature hears it.

Fourth and fifth, turn off that TV, and recall a time when people walked everywhere they went--or chose an animal for their means of transportation. Dante fears the great beasts which live in the forest because he was a city man. So, he never knew the pleasure of your favorite hound or beast of burden accompanying you on life's journey. So, even for Dante, there was always more to learn. His Divine Comedy
challenges us to see more than tragedy everywhere we look.That dog by your side will keep you exercising, come hell, high water, and warnings from physicians to slow down during the heat wave, but keep exercising on your schedule, in order to complete your trek to the Paradiso  Only in the Paradiso do heat waves of every kind surrender 
to the inspiring light of truth everlasting.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Oz Comes to Manhattan

Where has America's sense of geography gone? It was intact when Obama
and Biden campaigned, was it not? With their nominations, the democrat
party married the interests of Illinois and Delaware--not the greatest
spread in the political alliance business, but clear nonetheless. That
particular pair avoided all identification with the powerful Northeast
and the defiant South. It avoided all talk of the Civil War because
that pair never dipped below the Mason-Dixon Line, which forms
Pennsylvania's southern border, as well as Delaware's western border.

The most famous case of a political marriage for convenience occurred
in 1960. of course, when Massachusetts wed Texas with the democrat
presidential race of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson. Under
the heading of the presidential campaign of 1960. Wikipedia even
notes: "Kennedy relied on running mate Lyndon B. Johnson to hold the
South, and used television effectively." Each pair of candidates can
thus clearly be seen as a strategy to hold the country together by
means of the geographical distribution of the interests, resources,
and votes which both candidates offer as a dowry of sorts.

In the case of Kennedy and Johnson, according to the media at the
time, the pair seemed constantly on the verge of divorce. The cause
was not political, but cultural. Comments about Johnson's handling of
his dog--lifting him by the ears--made headlines in the media, which
also featured lengthy coverage of personal quirks. Photographs
appeared of Johnson displaying his belly scars; his nickname for his
wife, Lady Bird, also received repeated treatments, as if Lyndon did
not enjoy the privilege of calling his wife by any nickname that the
two found acceptable and endearing.

The reason for this public ridicule was not hard to find. The dialects
of the two candidates were so distinctive that they could not open
their mouths without announcing their origins. In addition, Jacqueline
Kennedy served as a walking advertisement for the most sophisticated
apparel designers, while the Johnsons lived on a ranch, and fancied
barbecues. Such observations might appear as the height of fluff
pieces in journalism, except they were not. They testified, instead,
to the country's consciousness of its own geographical divisions and
the trouble it took to combine alliances across America's great East,
North, South, and West.

The contrast between the media's coverage of the 1960 presidential
election and the 2016 presidential election could hardly be more
significant. To hear the media describe Trump and Pence, a viewer
might conclude that they came from nowhere in particular, unless the
set for interviews includes Trump Tower, and the Trumps point to the
New York skyline. Otherwise, the media appear not to notice that
combining the forces of the Empire State and the Hoosiers is an
obvious strategy to wed America's most outstanding urban interests to
this country's grand Midwest.

Current media headlines might read: Oz Comes to Manhattan, or
conversely, The Yellow Brick Road Leads Trump to Indiana, which has
plenty of Dorothy's famous tornadoes. Instead, viewers of the
Republican National Convention hear constant nagging about Trump's
manner of speech, or they are plagued by vague descriptions of
convention attendees as inattentive or unenthusiastic. Would it be too
much to expect that journalistic coverage reflect the barest
historical knowledge, along with relevant statistics? Viewers deserve
more than another visit with Watter's World on Fox News, where people
in the street reveal they haven't a clue where they are or what's
happening. This is a national election. Dippy media coverage is NOT
funny.

Two Hands, Two States, One Deal

When Donald Trump shook hands with Mike Pence at the Republican
National Convention, both men were making history. On July 20, 2016,
Pence accepted Trump's bid for the pair to become the seventh US
president from New York and the sixth US vice president from Indiana. 

In short, the odds are on their side if the past predicts the future, a
favorite motto in psychology and statistics.

The Archive of alloveralbany.com lists the six US presidents from New
York for history fans:


1. Martin Van Buren
2. Millard Fillmore
3. Chester A. Arthur
4. Grover Cleveland
5. Teddy Roosevelt
6. Franklin Roosevelt (x4)

Dan Carden tracks the math at www.nwitimes.com. "Indiana is the mother of vice presidents," declares Carden, 
quoting the fifth vice president of the United States.


These five US vice presidents seal the remarkable record from Indiana:

1. Dan Quayle
2. Schyler Colfax
3. Thomas Hendricks
4. Charles Fairbanks
5. Thomas Marshall (quoted above)

Now comes Carden's zinger: "Should Pence, a Columbia native, win in November and succeed the 70 year-old Trump for any reason, he would become the first president born in Indiana." Math renders the 2016 US presidential election more exciting than anyone might expect. When the Empire State combines forces with the Hoosiers, they are on a historic roll. Could a casino owner miss the challenge of completing the data started 200 years ago?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Bring Johnnie Carson Back!

Okay, we get it. Democrats find Republicans offensive. They identify Republicans exclusively with the Great White Satan, and there's little that Republicans can do about that mistake, except to say with a famous movie character: "You talkin' to me? You talkin' to ME?" 

But where did this attitude originate? If Republicans are offensive, it sure didn't bother Johnnie Carson and Don Rickles, who laid out their diverse subjects for humor like a grand smorgasbord. And didn't we laugh--all of us? Didn't we invite Johnnie into our homes night after night so he could enlighten us with his sparkling wit? 

If Johnnie ogled a woman, who pounced on him for political incorrectness? We were free then, weren't we, in a way that we aren't now, and we are the poorer for it. Humor deprivation needs to be on the top of both parties' platforms. I will not vote for a party which considers itself above the humor channel. 

And what political commentator now is as smart as Johnny? Brian Williams? I don't think so! Megyn Kelly? Nope! Obama? Hillary? Trump? Not a chance. All of them can get laughs occasionally, but none of them can entertain us like JFK or Ronald Reagan--or, for that matter, like W, with his Bushisms. 

Obama thinks he's funny, but a man who thinks he's funny isn't. Johnny and JFK and Reagan KNEW they were funny, and there is a difference between someone who's always taking potshots at his rivals and a talent-blessed comic who laughs WITH his audience, not AT them. Johnny knew that the human condition meant that he could be as absurd as any other mortal. It's called humility, and it's been too long since that dish has been served to America.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Do Dynasties Rule America?

The family business is going gangbusters in the US. No sooner do
republicans have a presidential candidate than they've got sons and
daughters coming down the track. Have we seen this phenomenon before
in American history?  Adams, Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Bush clans are
the most famous, and they're not done. But what happened to Carter,
LBJ, and Nixon? Shouldn't their daughters be running for something?

While the American family as a traditional unit has fallen on
extremely hard times, and the family farm, too, has virtually
surrendered to corporate America, the secret to keeping a family
together here appears to be: Run for office! Drag the kids along! Get
the spouse in on the act--if s/he can wear designer clothes but not
like a Kardashian. Multiple marriages just mean more kids and spouses
to add to the entourage.

Clinton's problem is that she has enough offspring and in-laws to
create a soap opera but not a basketball team. She didn't divorce
Bill, though, so now she's encumbered with a spouse whose legacy she
must defend, while he muddles along with his track record in the Oval
Office. If he had divorced Hillary, how many ex-wives would now be
endorsing Bill for the position of America's ambassador to the United
Nations?

Maybe the cartoon Adams Family created the real American dream. They
lived in a haunted Victorian pile. They accepted their relatives'
flaws as entertainment. They never divorced because who else could
manage their kids' careers? Cousin It handled their communications
systems, and Uncle Festor could always be counted on to relieve
boredom. "Swanky is as swanky does" could have been their campaign
slogan.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Hillary Is No Wrestler

This point is fact: For months, Hillary Clinton evaded competition. What was she doing while the republican candidates snarled and circled--having her nails and hair done? In sports, if a competitor doesn't show up, s/he's OUT! This observation especially applies to wrestling. Whether a competitor participates in professional, Olympic, or amateur wrestling, that athlete must get into the ring before he can be thrown OUT. Refusing to compete is a major fault. It suggests cowardice, lack of readiness, procrastination, and/or tardiness.

It doesn't matter if Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the DNC chair, plotted a strategy to favor Hillary over other democrat candidates. Wrestling is merciless in shining a spotlight on the individual. If s/he doesn't show up, fans see a big empty space. Immediately, frustrated fans get restless, just as they did waiting for Ray Charles, who was notorious for lateness, too. If a late competitor does show up eventually, then fans expect a performance which justifies their investment of time and anticipation: They demand the most outstanding exercise of skill, finesse, and even elegance in hoisting the opponent and whipsawing him/her outta that ring!

So, with a limited schedule of matches, Hillary looked like a loser BEFORE she ever made a visible move. When she finally did appear smiling and waving to a crowd--or at carefully arranged sit-downs with a few friendly souls--she looked like the girl who'd arrived at the prom without her date. Her smile was forced; her corsage had wilted. No one could quite remember what the fuss was about. Wrestlers don't behave this way, if they plan on winning anything--and Donald Trump has not participated in World Wrestling Entertainment for years without learning something.

The Donald takes care to move like a heavyweight. He plants his feet. He signals briefly with sharp hands to security or assistants. Whether he's entering or exiting an event, he is accompanied by a sturdy crew. His words are sharp, too, like hand chops. "Lying Ted!" he jabs. "Crooked Hillary!" he jabs again. His phrases are short, so no one can forget them. He eschews complexity for a crowd that's longing to boo and rave. He courts the spotlight because that's where the wrestler always is. His behavior speaks volumes, and voters get the message: The medium IS the message, said Marshall McLuhan.

It is not accidental that the business world is littered with former athletes. They come renowned for perseverance, teamwork, and a competitive spirit. They show up not only because it's expected, but because they live to win. Before anyone protests that everyone's a winner one way or another, consider how it felt to lose four Americans in Benghazi. Consider, too, how it felt to see the opposition retake Fallujah after American lives had been lost so memorably there. Do Americans want to spend another four years whining and complaining? Or do they just want to see the US get back into the ring?

                                                                    *   *   *

For more complaints, see also Borchers, Callum. "Why Hillary Clinton should go on Fox News again." The Washington Post. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/02/22/why-hillary-
clinton-should-go-back-on-fox-news-again/>.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Three Priceless Aids to Education

How can a parent set a child on the road to genius status? The most important choices cost nothing. Nevertheless, they will determine success or failure in that child's record.

1. Socialization begins with awareness that a child needs to pay attention to fundamentals. Thus, a parent needs to direct a child's attention to priorities: Is that child looking up, ready to learn, or is that child dragging around a bag of candy, intent only on a sugar fix?

2. Readiness to learn appears the second that children open their mouths. Are their favorite words obscenities, slurs, and baby talk? Or have they mastered those signals of constructive interaction with the rest of society: Hello? Please? Thank you!

3. By the age of three, if not before, does a child understand that a cardinal role in learning requires listening to instructions, following warnings, and rejoicing in rewards for cooperation with adults? Or does that child dash into traffic, screaming, "I wanna play!"

Teachers know what a child has been doing since birth from the first moment of encounter. Does the teacher's lesson result in love at first sight, or get me the heck out of here? Make constructive learning fun, and then throw a great party for parents who love their kids into life!