Month: July 2020

Taking a summer break

Here in the heat of July, I’ve decided to give the staff at More to Come the rest of the summer off. Yep — all the writers, editors, photographers, graphic designers, and those amazing headline writers — every last one of them will get almost seven weeks off with pay. Wow! What a boss!* Seriously, this seems like a good time for a break. I’m getting tired of considering all the draws being made on the U.S. Strategic Stupid Reserve, and there doesn’t seem to be any letup in sight. There will be plenty of material, unfortunately, on this topic after Labor Day. Also, there are some other projects calling for my focus, including that long-promised gap year book. So this is it until the Tuesday after Labor Day (8 September for the international readers). Well, this is it unless the feds in the unmarked vehicles and camouflaged uniforms come and lock me up, then all bets are off. Should you want to take this time and explore some of the things you might have …

The long haul

Only a few weeks into the pandemic, Leonard Pitts, Jr. — a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with the Miami Herald — noticed a change in the behavior of certain segments of the country. In the response to COVID-19 and the question of when and how the nation’s economy should be reopened, he observed that as a country, “(W)e seem to have tapped the U.S. Strategic Stupid Reserve. The result has been a truly awe-inspiring display of America’s matchless capacity for mental mediocrity.” Leonard Pitts, Jr., Miami Herald, April 24, 2020 This is one strategic reserve where the well never appears to run dry. Heck, in April we were just beginning to draw down on the stupid. I don’t have enough patience to cover even 1% of the calls upon this reserve since then, but one recent examples will suffice. Who would have thought back in April that this administration was going to smear the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the press while the president “was praising the public-health stylings of …

Rest in Peace, John Lewis

America just lost one of its most clear-eyed, moral leaders. John Lewis — civil rights hero on the front lines from lunch-counter desegregation in Nashville to Freedom Rides through a hostile South, the last remaining speaker from the August 1963 March on Washington, U.S. Congressman for 34 years, an activist to the end, and conscience for a nation — passed away Friday night after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Representative Lewis was a hero to many because in this age of nonstop blathering nonsense, he spoke plainly about the hope for an America that — as Langston Hughes wrote — is the America that the dreamers dreamed. And he not only spoke, but he walked the talk, most famously when his skull was cracked more than fifty years ago while trying to walk across an Alabama bridge working for justice.  There are many wonderful tributes to John Lewis pouring in. I recommend the statement of President Obama, who — when given a ticket to his history-making inauguration as the nation’s first Black American president …

Saturday Soundtrack: Songs for social distancing

I was listening to Oscar Peterson recently when he began the familiar Duke Ellington tune Don’t Get Around Much Anymore. I quipped, “Well, that could be my theme song for sheltering-in-place.” Here we are, still pretty much stuck in our own bubbles for the foreseeable future, and not getting around much at all. While musing on our situation, the thought came to me that it could be fun — or at least distracting — to have a look here on Saturday Music at this testimonial to social distancing. We’ll begin our exploration of this beautiful “I miss you” song with the version that put me on this quest — the Oscar Peterson arrangement, which I believe features Peterson on piano, the incomparable Ray Brown on bass, and Ed Thigpen on drums.* Then we’ll turn to Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald — jazz royalty — for their take on the standard. This out-of-focus clip is from the NBC telecast the Ella Fitzgerald Show, from April 1968. According to some online commentators, in the same show they …

In praise of teachers

As we debate schools reopening in the midst of a pandemic, this seems like a perfect time to say a few words of praise for teachers who work in our public and private school systems across the country and around the world. Teachers have been very important in my life. I am married to a retired teacher. One sister is a librarian (another form of teaching) as was my mother, and the other sister trained in education and used those skills in various ways with preschoolers. My sister-in-law is a retired teacher, and I have nieces who are currently public school teachers. In almost 20 years of formal education and 65 years of informal learning in the world, I’ve had many teachers — a number of which I remember very fondly and a few of which changed my life. Every now and then I find a link that sends me to Twitter and today was one of those days. Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, author, and professor who lives in Cleveland, Ohio.* She …

Tone deaf and tiresome

Daniel Snyder is — with apologies to Judith Viorst — the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad owner of the Washington National Football League (NFL)  franchise. As sports columnist Martin Fennelly chronicled back in 2018, there are many instances one can point to of Snyder’s terrible stewardship of what many foolishly consider to be a community asset. (Those who think this way definitely do not include NFL owners.) With so many to choose from, where does one start? Well, one of the worst examples could be when the team’s cheerleaders said they were used as escorts on a trip to Costa Rica where stadium suite owners and sponsors could “check out” those women topless. Then there is the sycophancy. Like other bosses who thrive on obsequious behavior from their staffs, Snyder hires sycophants in his operation and runs through coaches like — oh, I don’t know — White House chiefs of staff or press secretaries. But many considered his most egregious behavior to be his defiant refusal to consider the impact of Washington’s stereotyped racial image …

A plethora of pithy proverbs

Late last year I showcased a series of pithy proverbs — those bursts of truth in 20 words or so — in a new blog feature entitled More to Consider.* Six months later, I’m back with the ones I’ve highlighted since that original post. My love for the short and to-the-point adage comes from my Grandmother Brown, who was known to say things such as, “Some folks are born in the objective mood.” Grandmother did not have a lot of patience with folks who were always complaining and objecting to what others did.  Both my grandparents, as well as my father, always had a positive outlook and attitude toward people. I wonder what they would think of our president? Well, let’s don’t go down that rabbit hole! Instead, here are the More to Consider proverbs, quotes, adages, and sayings from the last six months, beginning with the one that is on the blog at this moment, from African American poet Langston Hughes. In this time of reconsideration of our nation’s direction, it seemed especially appropriate …

Saturday Soundtrack: Billy Strings

Billy Strings was born William Apostol on October 3, 1992, and grew up listening to his stepfather’s bluegrass music as well as the more broadly popular rock and metal genres. As he started playing music, all those influences come tumbling out of his guitar in ways surprising and often refreshing. His aunt gave him the moniker Billy Strings after recognizing his talent as a multi-instrumentalist. I’d say she hit the nail on the head. In 2016’s Meet Me At the Creek, Strings and his band head off on an extended jam that sounds like bluegrass meeting indie rock. One of the funniest online comments (apropos of nothing) makes the observation: “Forest Gump 3 months into his run on the upright bass…” but the music is great. With this 2017 version of Turmoil and Tinfoil, Strings and his band head off down a path of bluegrass metal music. Two of the best next generation bluegrass guitar players — Strings and Molly Tuttle — play the old chestnut Sittin’ On Top of the World at the 2019 …

Pathway Free-Photos

The lens is not the landscape

How did you respond when you first discovered the many ways there are to view the world? For some, this isn’t a problem. From an early age they have looked at the world through a particular set of glasses, assuming that their view is the correct one. They learn how to describe what they see in terms that others who wear the same glasses understand. And unless they have some life-changing jolt — perhaps a worldwide pandemic that doesn’t care about their nationality, religion or political ideology; or an especially graphic picture of systemic racism that refuses to be ignored — they never ask questions about the things that are not clear. But for those who see another perspective or choose to try on different pairs of glasses, all of a sudden they realize that their world view is not the only one. They have to choose how to respond. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh describes this broader existence when he notes, “While living the life of a wave, the wave also lives the life …

You can’t choose your family

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee famously wrote: “You can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family, an’ they’re still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge ’em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don’t.” In this time of global pandemic, many of us find long distances and time zones separate us from our families. We don’t have the opportunity to see our kin face-to-face. Instead we rely on technology to connect and share the stories, meals, game nights, music, and long conversations that support those familial ties and weave together the family tapestry over years. I’ve been thinking about my family in recent weeks. Ninety-five years ago today Tom Brown entered this world. Born July 5, 1925, Daddy lived a full and rich life, staying on this earth long enough to have his five children — a small part of his expansive and loving family — join together to celebrate his 90th birthday in 2015. He passed away the following spring, just weeks short …