The Return of Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner is finally free from her Russian captors. Although many Americans are happy about this, there appears to be just as many who are not—including some tool-turned-psuedo-journalist named Benny Johnson.

Benny and his ilk think Griner should still be in Russia instead of former U.S. Marine, Paul Whelan, who has been painted by Johnson as a patriotic Marine who loves his country. 

If we look deeper into the character of Paul Whelan, we’ll find he’s not all that red-white-and-blue—certainly not a “John Rambo” as they’d like us to believe.

For one, Whelan is a citizen in three other countries—Canada (his birthplace), the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic. Secondly, although he did serve in the U.S. Marine Corp and was part of two tours in Iraq, he was ultimately discharged from the Marines for bad conduct on larceny—writing bad checks and stealing Social Security numbers.

He’s hardly a patriot, certainly not a hero by anyone’s definition. Yet, Benny Johnson and company will always choose a White dude over a Black woman, an obedient member of the military over an outspoken athlete, a straight guy over a lesbian—even if that straight, White, member of the military is a swindler.

Benny Johnson’s bullshit tweet.

Simply put, Whelan is another grifter who once wore a Marine uniform. Further, the other countries where he holds a passport aren’t making much noise over his Russian detention either.  The truth is Griner is a much greater asset, an inspiration to all young women, an activist, and a great athlete.

Lastly, if Whelan is truly the patriot that Benny Johnson says he is, surely Whelan is good to know that Griner went home before him. That’s what military people sign up for—to serve, protect, and sacrifice if needed. Besides, trading Whelan for the Russian gun-runner Viktor Bout would truly have been a bad trade.

More on Whelan HERE.

Low-Rent, Supreme Court Martydom

Young lesbian couple celebrating their marriage in front of their friends. —marieclaire.com.au

Lorie Smith of “303 Creative” somewhere in Colorado is a graphic artist/designer who specializes in websites, graphics, social media, and marketing. No doubt, she is one of several hundred businesses in Colorado who offer such services. So, to get herself more noticed, she has decided to take a different approach to promoting herself rather than the usual, good-old-fashioned hard work method.

Here’s her plan: Smith doesn’t want to do wedding websites for same sex couples because according to her faith, she doesn’t believe in same-sex marriages and is afraid the State of Colorado will force her to do such. “I want to design for weddings that are consistent with my faith,” Smith said. So, before any same-sex couples even ask her to create a website for them, she is going to the Supreme Court and challenging this possible scenario before it ever materializes.

Yeah, right… Smith is just another individual to add to the growing list of pollyanna, look-at-me, attention-needy whores who believes that her hang-ups and her problems should belong to everyone else—think cake decorator, Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop (also in Colorado), or the Kentucky County Clerk, Kim Davis, who refused to issue marriage license to same-sex couples because of her faith.

Snake-Oil Salesman, Kenneth Copeland

You know, I don’t want to do graphic design for asshole politicians like Donald Trump or any of his cronies because I want to do graphic design for projects that are consistent with my ethics, my morals, or my faith. Yet, I’m not going to the Supreme Court and asking them to excuse me from working for such people should they ever come calling. I don’t want to do family portraits for brainwashed, evangelical families who attend churches run by snake-oil salesmen like Joel Osteen or Kenneth Copeland because I want to do graphic design for projects that are consistent with my ethics, my morals, or my faith. Yet, I’m not going to the Supreme Court and asking them to excuse me from working for such people should they ever come calling.

Good God, Lorie Smith must think she’s the only web designer in all of Colorado—possibly the entire country or world. Talk about a needy and over-inflated ego.

There’s a simple solution to Smith’s problem that graphic designers, artists, printers and other businesses have been practicing for years when it comes to not taking on jobs that are of no interest to an “artist” like herself—and surely she knows it too (unless she really is that stupid).

You don’t want to do a job for a same-sex couple? OK, just tell them you’re really slammed with other work and you can’t take on any other jobs at this time. You don’t want to do work for a known White supremacy group, tell them you’re working on a huge project for the Southern Poverty Law Center (if you want to add a little spice to the conversation) and you’re not sure when you could get to their project.

Whether right or wrong, ethical or unethical, businesses have been turning down work for years—and for all kinds of reasons. Yet, Smith seems to insist that her business “ethics” be put out there for the entire country to know about. Lorie Smith is the epitome of a drama-queen, dime-store martyr.

Most business operations avoid being too political, too religious, too anything because they typically want as much business as they can get. But, there are those customers who are undesirable for whatever reason—some reasons more legit than others. Maybe they don’t pay their bills on time, maybe they aren’t pleasant to work with, maybe they own a bar or a strip joint, maybe they are a lawyer, or maybe there is simply something about them that you don’t like as soon as they walk into the room. The great thing about being in business, you don’t have to be bluntly truthful in turning down any client that seeks you out. You can simply decline a job because you’re busy, and (in making them feel good as they walk out the door) suggest someone else who might be a good alternative for their project.

Of course, those like Lorie Smith like to wear their values, their ethics, their religion, and whatever else you can think of on their sleeve for the whole world to see. Lorie Smith’s faith and morals are as sickening sweet as Masterpiece Cakeshop’s wedding cakes.

If only someone would set up another marketing/graphic design operation next door or across the street from Smith with a banner that says, “We Welcome Same-Sex Wedding Clients.”

Send Before Midnight… Tonight

Not too long ago, I made the mistake of sending money to a political campaign, and then sometime after that, a little dough here and there to other campaigns, but nothing extensive in terms of frequency or amount.

As a result of my political generosity, I now get email every day from someone who is running for a government office, or someone who is representing them—mostly Democrats, because I lean that way, but not always (see image).

At one time I thought that votes won elections, not money. Yet, given the amount of email I receive everyday asking for funding, I guess this isn’t true—at least not to the people running those campaigns.

Here’s a small sample of the many pitches I receive everyday:

You haven’t made a donation yet this year. Ahead of Friday’s deadline, can I count on you to split a $25 donation between my campaign…

So please, can you chip in a donation of $5 or more to help me…

Make no mistake, by donating to support my campaign, you played such an instrumental role in building our movement—and I couldn’t be more grateful.

There’s so much riding on this close race, and I can’t win without your help, so I’m asking: Will you donate $5 now to help me…

Whatever happened to “I can’t win without your vote.” And, what’s with these random deadlines?

Recently I started getting emails from the campaign of Val Demings who is running for the Florida Senate seat now held by Marco Rubio. I’ve never sent her campaign a dime, but I know how these things work. Once you give to one, they all find out about you. And, I get it—I’m sure she’s a much better person than Rubio, but her campaign is downright relentless in petitioning the world for money via email. At least four emails today and four yesterday (a Sunday) alone, and 23 emails for all of last week.

Back when I first heard about her in one of those earlier emails, I remember thinking to myself, “Well, that seems like a reasonable campaign that I could support.” But now, I can’t get past the blitzkrieg of emails to find my checkbook.

It’s all a bit of a turn-off.

And then I think about that self-proclaimed billionaire and former President who is standing up in front of his supporters asking them to send him money for his political wars. At least I’m not receiving that kind of bullshit.

I’m finished with sending money to political campaigns. I’ve never really believed in it anyway. From now on, it’s only my vote they will be competing for. Something tells me I won’t be getting many emails asking for only that.

The Tragedy (and Comedy) that is America

Uvalde, Texas… America’s newest mass-murder capitol.

I never would have known a thing about the town of Newtown, Connecticut if it hadn’t been for the senseless slaughter of school children in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary. Now, here in 2022—and for the same reason—I get to learn about the town of Uvalde, Texas and its ordinary-sounding (up until today) Robb Elementary School. I suppose this is how America gets a small town on the map these days for the rest of us, they have a mass shooting there.

Take comfort America in your thoughts and prayers; across the street from the Robb Elementary School is the Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home.

I’d truly prefer to discover the charm of these towns on my own, rather than the blood-filled news after they are cursed with a mass shooting.

So, how does stupid America solve the problem? The same way it’s always solved the problem (not really)… by throwing more guns into the equation. More guns for the “good guys.” If this wasn’t such a tragic solution, it would be a comedy.

And, if America was a fire brigade, it would bring gasoline to every house fire.

So, when all of the teachers and educational administrators are “packing” during the normal school day to end “school shootings,” we’ll need to do the same for our doctors and nurses. Why? Because inevitably, the blood-thirsty, attention-needy, fringe element of the gun-owners and NRA (all hiding behind the Second Amendment) will be coming for the hospital nurseries.

That’s right, you heard it hear first. The new-born children will be next because these gun-worshipping, sick-fucks are all about soft targets and nothing is softer than a ward of new borns and their weakened mothers. On top of that, we’ll also have an occasional gun-toting educator who flips out and commences a second wave of school-based mass shootings all over again.

And you thought Omicron was a bitch. 

And if the hospital nurseries are too secure, they’ll go after the elder living facilities. And after that, family reunions, weddings, funerals… any place you think would be void of such carnage.

And, finally after all of that—hopefully and deservingly—Russia will nuke us hard.

Postscript: I am a gun owner (3 in all) and would gladly jump through whatever hoops required of me to maintain that ownership, or simply (and gladly) surrender them all.

A Nuked Dream

Last night's dream re-enactment

Last night, I awoke around 1:30 in the morning after retiring at 10:30—typical of my sleep patterns in the last three years. I restarted a YouTube ASMR video on my phone nearby—the same one that I fell asleep to at 10:30, but it would be another two hours later before I would fall back to sleep.

 

When I finally fell back asleep, I found myself in some large parking lot associated with a big arena or stadium—it felt like somewhere in the Phoenix metropolitan area. There was some event going on as the parking lot surrounding the structure was full. For whatever reason, I was outside of the structure (near its doors) hanging out and waiting for the event to conclude. It felt as though I was waiting for someone who was still in attendance on the inside, but I don’t know who that was.

 

While outside, it seemed as though I was carrying on in small talk with someone that I knew—it could have been Jerry Brown, an old friend I knew when I was working for ASU Student Publications.

 

Then suddenly, Jerry or someone else nearby shouted out, “It’s finally happening… Here it comes.”

 

I walked away from the doors so I could see around a portion of the building to where a person was pointing—a rising and colorless mushroom cloud on the horizon—akin to a giant jellyfish in the sky. There was no sound at that moment, and it was far away, but not too far to be seen, growing larger and taking up more of the sky. Perhaps it was on the outskirts of Phoenix like one of its Air Force Bases—Luke or Williams, I couldn’t be sure.

 

What I was sure of, more would be coming—perhaps at any moment.

 

I was hesitant in what to do next. Should I venture into the arena and throw myself into a crowd that was certainly going to be panicked by the time I was inside, finding the person I came with, or simply go to the car and wait for them—or wait for the next strike?

 

Knowing what I had just witnessed, I knew it didn’t matter. The end that was surely near was going to override whatever I would do next. And then I woke myself for another round of sleeplessness.

 

Meanwhile, Russia’s attack on Ukraine enters its third week with everyday reminders that this is a war no one can afford to escalate.

A Confirmation of Coolness… Finally

Russell and Ron Mael by Gems/Redferns

While I was laying half asleep the other day, I heard the NPR Morning Edition announcer going through the usual list of sponsors for their show—watered down advertisements that bypass the hype of a product, but simply say who they are.

In that cloudy region of my head I remember hearing something about a new movie/documentary titled the “Sparks Brothers.” Unlike most times, I hear something like this and forget about it, but given the title of the movie, I made a mental note right there in my state of near-awareness to google it when I was more coherent. 

As I was making that note, I thought of the band that I came to know way back in the 9th grade—Sparks—and wondered if this movie was about that same band. Although they weren’t called The Sparks Brothers, two brothers formed the band—Russell and Ron Mael—and it was called Sparks.

As it turned out and much to my delight, the movie is indeed about the band from my youth, Sparks, and the two brothers who created it—Russell and Ron Mael.

Before going any further, I must confess that I was never a huge Sparks fan—a fan for sure nonetheless. I did purchase several of their early albums including “Propaganda,” the album that contained the first Sparks songs I heard.

An acquaintance with Sparks…
While attending Schrop Junior High School in the spring semester of 1975, Tim Kittinger and Terry Verble performed a lip-synch video in our 9th-grade English class of the Sparks song “Achoo.” This little in-class video was shot, recorded and played back in class. Beyond the quirkiness of the actual song, Terry Verble played the no-nonsense Ron Mael on the keyboards providing the lion’s share of the visual spectacle it was. Not long after that, I was chasing down the album for my own listening at home.

On a historical side note, I don’t recall a conversation in class about the video recording technology we used that day, but this must have been something very new for the time as VHS wasn’t out yet and Beta tapes had just been released. I’m guessing this was done on a Beta system the school had just purchased. Whatever the case, I recall watching the recording on a normal television after the production, not a reel-to-reel film that had to be processed.

At that time, I didn’t know how obscure Sparks was (or would continue to be), I just took it for granted that I was a little out of touch, and besides, Kittinger and Verble were way cooler than myself. Yet, looking back now, I wonder how my two classmates came to know of Sparks themselves, especially since few people in my circles knew of Sparks whether it was in high school, college, or any time beyond.

Given the suburbia status of Springfield Township just beyond the city limits of Akron, Ohio, it is still somewhat puzzling that there were so many eclectic students in my class (and surrounding classes) with a knack of discovering various non-mainstream acts like Sparks, or The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Todd Rundgren, and some of the local upstarts in The James Gang and The Michael Stanley Band. Although I really didn’t possess the same creative skills or smarts to be one of these students, I enjoyed their company, their keen wit and drew on their energy for those things beyond what were known and well established.

So, energized by this new movie release, I looked into how a few of us could have come to know about Sparks—way back in pre-internet, pre-MTV 1975.

Just who are Sparks?
Sparks (brothers Russell and Ron Mael) originated in Southern California, and like Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders, they made their mark in the U.K. first—only before the Pretenders came along. It was after their success in the U.K. that Sparks experienced some popularity in the States, but it was somewhat limited to certain areas of the country—San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Cleveland.

Now the “How-We-Came-To-Know-Sparks Origin Story” was starting to make sense.

In particular, Cleveland’s WMMS jockey Kid Leo and his colleagues were playing Sparks, while the influential radio station sponsored a Sparks concert at the Akron Civic Theater on April 17, 1975 and a follow up show the next day at the Cleveland Music Hall. It’s very possible that my old junior high classmates had actually attended the performance at the nearby Civic Theater. And, given this was a time before MTV and music videos, attending the Civic Theater performance might explain how Verble knew how to mimic Ron Mael on the keyboards.

Passing it on.
It wasn’t long after the purchase of my first Sparks album that my best friend, Steve, who attended one of the Akron High Schools, also came to know of Sparks through me. In return, he would introduce me to other music that I adopted to my music collection starting with Jim Croce, Queen, Tom Waits, Jimmy Buffett and John Prine.

This started me thinking about how I came to know the various musicians and bands in my current music library—especially the ones that share a sense of obscurity with Sparks.

Seniors Mike Walent and Richard Sapronetti would have our art teacher, Mr. Bako, play The Sensational Alex Harvey band during my sophomore year with “Midnight Moses” becoming one of my favorite guitar riffs of all time.

The WMMS jockeys adopted and delivered Springsteen to Northeast Ohio before he was huge, Michael Stanley as he was gaining traction in Northeast Ohio and even the obscure live recording “Friday On My Mind” by a band from San Francisco appropriately called Earth Quake. This song was engrained in all of us as one of three songs played every Friday at 6.00 pm to mark the beginning of the weekend. The other two songs that kicked off the weekend were Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” and Ian Hunter’s “Cleveland Rocks.” (For those familiar with the WMMS Weekend Salute: Don’t think for one moment that I’ve forgotten Murray Saul. That’s a post of its own for another time.)

More recently, thanks to Wyoming Public Radio, I’ve come to know the music of Cincinnati-based singer and songwriter, Kim Taylor and Chicago/L.A.-based Gold Motel. Finally, during a field trip to Portland, a student of mine arranged for us to see Todrick Hall, while an episode of Letterkenny had my partner and I looking up Canadian artist Peaches and downloading some of her more-than-suggestive music.

Looking back, much of the more obscure music I’ve come to know over the years, seems to have come to me by way of these whimsical, short, odd (and yes, even obscure) moments in life where I happened to be in the right places at the right times. And, after watching this movie, I’m pretty sure I’ll be playing more of Sparks without the worry of explaining the music to anyone who comes along and says, “What/Who the hell is that?”

See the official Sparks Brothers trailer HERE.

Waste & Aesthetic of Energy Systems

Wind Farm, Iowa

Because I’ve been pretty outspoken against fossil fuels over the years, a few people I know like to remind me of the wind turbine blade landfill near Casper, Wyoming—pointing out to me that after the blades have been used up due to wind erosion and whatever else wears them down, they have a dedicated place for disposal in this supersized landfill. Currently there is no recycling options for them other than covering them with dirt (see link below).

 

Their reminder about this always strikes me as a little odd. They say it as if the fossil fuel industry has nothing in comparison, or almost as if they are unaware of any waste or discarded material when it comes to the fossil fuel industry. When in truth, much of the fossil fuel waste is simply laying around unused where it was last operational or it simply ends up in the everyday landfills. Further, harnessing the wind and sun have no significant residual by-products like that of the fossil fuel industry.

 

Just because the fossil fuel industry has no “dedicated” spaces for their trash, doesn’t mean there is none. I would even reason based on the wide variety of equipment you find in any oil or gas field that the amount of trash probably surpasses that which is generated by renewables—for the simple reason there are fewer moving parts when it comes to renewables, especially with solar. Further, whether the waste is renewable or not, I’ll bet my paycheck that the waste generated by renewables is far less toxic than the waste coming from fossil fuel operations.

 

Regardless, I’m not here to argue which industry generates more waste. The point is anything that is of this world generates waste—automobiles, appliances, construction, medical equipment, textiles, printing and publishing, shipbuilding, agriculture, hospitality, aviation, etc. Sooner or later, everything wears out, and waste is the result, period.

 

Then there is the aesthetic of it all. Granted, anything man-made in the wilderness is not great, because, well… it’s man made and doesn’t look natural. So, given the two offerings of a fossil fuel landscape or a renewable energy landscape, I’ll take the renewables every time. Not because they can’t be seen, but because the visual they offer includes simple lines and shapes along with various patterns, and a minimal amount of peripheral and chaotic related structures. (See photos).

 

Yes, a wind farm can be seen from far off, but it is anything but ugly. Keep in mind, power lines and their transmission towers are just as visible from far away whether they carry electricity from a coal-fired power plant or a wind farm, and are probably here for a long time to come.

 

Lastly, there is no odor associated with renewables—and certainly nothing that can make you dead before you hit the ground like hydrogen sulfide (H2S). 

 

I’ve witnessed many travelers stopping and just simply gazing at a wind farm for its grandness, quietness and simplicity. But, I don’t recall (ever) hearing someone say, “Let’s go out to the gas fields and look at the structures,” or “Let’s go watch the pumpjacks!” Not to say there are some exceptions to this twisted idea.

 

 

Which would you rather view?

Volunteers Needed

George Floyd under the knee of Derek Chauvin.

There’s a contingency of individuals out there who insist that George Floyd died from a drug overdose instead of affixation. I suppose it is possible, but a little experiment needs to take place first—and a simple experiment at that.

Starting with the defense team of Derek Chauvin (or the jury), one of its members should step forward and volunteer to be handcuffed, face down on the asphalt and have the weight of a… say, 180-pound man kneel on the back and side of their neck for almost ten minutes.

It would be an easy test to refute the claim that Mr. Floyd was indeed murdered by Chauvin. All they’d have to do is endure about 10 minutes of what is likely to be an uncomfortable experience—but certainly survivable, right?

And just to make sure that nothing goes wrong, unlike George Floyd’s experience, this little test will be closely monitored so if—for example—the volunteer passes out, the pressure will be released and a medical expert will be there to revive them if needed. They would also have the option to “tap out” much like a mixed-martial arts contest if they feel they can’t go any longer.

That seems like a simple enough request. Who wants to volunteer?

A Recipe for a Greater America

The Mars rover Perseverance is slowly lowered to
the Martian surface by the onboard sky crane.

You want to talk about making America great (again)? I’ve news for you—it’s already here.

It was on full display this past Thursday in NASA’s Pasadena, California Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) when the Perseverance rover was lowered onto the surface of Mars after a seven-month journey covering over 300 million miles.

No matter how you look at it, the landing of the car-sized Perseverance on the Martian surface was a great event that went without a hitch. And, great events don’t happen without great people running the show.

As I witnessed this event unfold, I started noting how many people of color and how many women were part of this show—starting with Swati Mohan, the mission’s guidance, navigation, and control operations lead. I have no idea what the demographic breakdown of the mission’s team is, but it certainly didn’t resemble anything like those Apollo missions with a room full of Anglos assembled in Houston’s mission control back in the 60s and 70s.

I read recently that NASA as a whole still has a long way to go in terms of diversity, with 72% White and 34% women employees. I’d be surprised if those were the same numbers on the Perseverance mission team.

If we truly witnessed greatness the other day—and I believe we did—then the recipe for greatness was right in front of us in the diversified gathering of individuals who define the Perseverance mission to Mars.