Monday, June 18, 2018

Why? Because the Bible tells me so


I am not an ardent Bible reader.  The Truly Religious, the Falwellian Moral Majority, the righteous gay bashers, the on-going “the Bible tells me so” types…I gave up on them and their rule book years ago.  More recently I’ve realized that the parts of the New Testament printed in red are meant to be ignored…that’s why they’re in red, it seems.  Not because Jesus allegedly said it and it should be followed; rather, even though Jesus allegedly said it and it can be ignored.

I had a sort of religious upbringing.  Presbyterian, but back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, so they were still pretty literal.  We did not read the Bible daily, although father ultimately succumbed to some brand of “put your paycheck in the collection plate and you’ll be saved” grift.  However, Sunday school was Bible drill and church was “I know the Bible means this…question me at your peril,” so I had to know the drill.

And there was also Old Testament and New Testament “study” at school, a small Christian college for small Christians.

Now I’m grateful because it helps me see how disgusting The Truly Religious are.  Not just in their treatment of others, but by their careful cherry-picking of Bible verses.  The most recent, as of 6/17/18, is our morally bankrupt attorney general’s quote of Romans 13:1 to justify the separation of brown-skinned children from their brown-skinned parents as they all still believed the bullshit and wanted to find a better life in the once-great United States.
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”  All right.  That justifies ripping kids from their parents.

But then there’s an “oops” in verse 6: “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.”  This comes awfully close to Jesus’ bout with the Pharisees in Matthew 22:  18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?
21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.
22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

It’s not my intention to use Romans 13:6 as an argument for why churches should be tax-exempt (“It’s in the Bible!”) or for showing off one’s “deeply-held religious beliefs” while refusing to make a wedding cake for an LGBTQ couple.  Also, it's in red.  However, it is interesting to contemplate.

And while we all know that god himself wrote the King James Version, I don’t speak that version of English, so this is the New International, written by mere mortals.

Anyway, our oh-so-honorable/god-fearing attorney general (or his lovable lackey speechwriter) also failed to get to the point of the entire chapter.

According to Paul:
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
(Emphases mine)

If verse 6 seems to paraphrase Matthew 22:21b, this is nearly an actual quote from Matthew 22:34-40:
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

Those Pharisees could really be annoying, but nearly as annoying as that Jesus guy.  Fortunately, it’s highlighted in red, so we can ignore it.  

However, for cherry-picking purposes, how’s this:
Psalm 137:9: Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

Or, if you prefer god’s own words:
Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.
(Emphasis god’s)

How long before this one is used?

Monday, May 28, 2018

Music by Numbers

Jack referred to it as my "knitting."  Although maybe a bit patronizing, he was right.  I'm not a trained musician in any sense of the word.  I lucked into conducting and found out how things were done, made it up as I went along, or did what came naturally.  Arranging came about from necessity.  Parts were too high or a certain passage was too difficult.  When I started directing the gay men's chorus, I noticed there was not a whole lot music for men, so I learned how to re-voice and move parts around.  This was in the Dark Ages.

I didn't mind about the "knitting" dig.  I sat at the computer in the evenings and we'd talk...he'd watch TV or a DVD and I could hear it while working with music on the Finale system.  He was a singer, a soloist; he wasn't particularly interested in my endeavors except when something involved him.  I'm not good at writing melodies, so it's safe to say he wrote more poems about me than I wrote songs for him.  On the other hand, he could dictate a melody and I'd type it in and then work on it until he was happy.  Or I arranged songs he wanted to sing as part of an act.  Then I wasn't knitting.

It is just a tad strange, though, that I am addicted to putting music into the computer either as is or to arrange...and now even to orchestrate.  Part of it has to do with not being able to hear the choral music I like.  The voices aren't human voices, but I can hear the composer's intentions and how the arranger, if not the composer, fleshes it out.  I also love piano music, and playback on my computer now has the piano sound very well approximated.

Calling my music "knitting," as in "a hobby," also compares it correctly to painting by numbers or stitching on patterns already printed on the cloth.  It doesn't demand very much creativity and it's rewarding for the hobbyist who may not have the imagination or the talent to be original.  Painting by numbers and stitching a previously printed design can also serve as training.  Unfortunately, it's training without a teacher, but you can paint those numbers and get a feeling for what the artist had in mind.  If you are interested in painting, some aspects of it can be learned by the numbers.

Minus the teacher, for example, you can assign a different color to a number, make 7 the blue rather than the yellow that 7 is supposed to be.  Your developing artistic mind can start to see different patterns without destroying the original work.  Painting within the lines is good but restrictive. 

And so it is with the music I type into Finale.  It can be note-perfect, but I can also play around with the score because no one is ever going to hear what I'm doing and I want to hear what a change would sound like.  I love to arrange piano music to sound like how I'd play it if I could play piano.  The most fun recently comes from orchestrating a piece.  It can open up a tune to new understanding of the work, a different slant on it, or reconfirm the brilliance of the music and/or text.

When I first started my revue of music in the public domain, I thought I'd use the piano part on the sheet music and maybe gussy it up a bit.  I decided that wasn't sufficient.  Most of these songs would have been heard in a theater or on records.  I toyed with a 2 piano approach, but the novelty of two pianos imitating an orchestra wore off fast...plus it was rough for me to keep coming up with duo piano arrangements to accompany a singer.  That's when I came to the (scary) realization that if a song were performed in public, it would be as a vaudeville act...and vaudeville theaters had pit orchestras.  So I taught myself orchestration.

Lord knows it's not easy.  It does, however, create another dimension for the song.  And there are all sorts of orchestrations.  Mostly, I do a band or small orchestra.  I've also discovered the joy of jazz.  There are a couple of professional arrangers (Kirby Shaw, Steve Zegree, Mark Hayes, Mac Huff) who love jazz and arrange accordingly.  Because choral music comes with a piano accompaniment, I've now tried to rewrite the accompaniment for a small jazz combo or a brass combo (in imitation of Henry Mancini).  I know I'm on the right track if I can imagine people mumbling, the sound of glass and ice, and smell alcohol and tobacco smoke.

It's also become a project from time to time to write out duo piano arrangements from choral sheets.  There will be a piano accompaniment and the chorus, usually soprano-alto-tenor-bass, becomes the second piano, but with some necessary changes and additions.  Almost all choral pieces start out with a solo or one part, usually soprano.  That sounds nice for singing, but that it also sounds as if the pianist has trouble playing more than a melody line.  This looks like a job for Arranger Guy!

As I approach age 73, typing music into the computer for my own private, personal purposes is quite satisfying.  Depending on what I'm doing (and to what), I find great creative possibilities in just playing around with the music.  No one will ever hear it, and that's fine.  Music can be for a wide audience, but it's also intensely personal.  And the more personal, the better.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Patches -- Farewell


Patches didn’t wake up this morning. She was my last living link with Jack. Life just got a little bit harder.

She assumed she was Queen of the Universe; I explained to her several times that she was the Princess, that Jack and I were ahead of her in the Queen category.
She took the catnip talk to heart...she didn't inhale, but she loved to eat it.

She chose us at the rescue shelter. When the associate pulled her out of her cage, Patches leaped onto Jack's chest and howled, "Get me outta here!" She would not let go. I like to think she chose well.

She was abandoned by a couple. Neither wanted her, I guess, and a neighbor saw Patches in the window. The neighbor knew the couple split.

She found hidey holes and lofty heights in our house we didn't know existed. 

After Jack died, she became incredibly important to me and I spoiled her even more than when she had two big two-legged critters catering to her every need. 

One time I was having a check-up and the doctor asked me if I had psoriasis. I didn't understand the question and she pointed to my forearm. "Oh," I said. "That's cat." When I sat at the desk, Patches would hop up for scritches. Because I'm quite fat, the top of my belly made a great, soft ledge for her and, when the scritches and belly rubs really got her off, she'd dig her claws into my arm. I'll be sad when that heals.

She liked sleeping on the bed, but she rarely slept beside me. I woke up to her snuggled up against me. Did she know she was dying and figured that was a way to show her love? I don't know. I think she knew she was loved. I hope so. 

We were quite a trio, her, Jack, and me. Then we became quite a duet.

I don't think I want another cat. Or pet. Or person. But a line from Garth Brooks' "The Dance" keeps coming to mind: "Our lives are better left to chance. I could have missed the pain, but I'd have had to miss the dance."

Love you, Patches.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

I Offer My Knee To 45



I feel I owe you more of an explanation. I kinda sorta took a little more Clonazepam (anti-anxiety) than may I should have last night and was listening to "Zigeunerweisen" and "Variations on a Theme by Paganini" and such, and a performance of Beethoven's 9th came up on the "We bet you'll like this" column. I was fairly mellowed and thought 80 minutes of uninterrupted music would be nice. The Clonazepam did what weed used to do for me...made me listen to the music, concentrate on what people were doing, playing, singing. Ricardo Muti conducted the Chicago Symphony and it was just mesmerizing. It wasn't as if it were the first time I ever heard...hell, I've sung it and sat through rehearsals for it. But it was a totally immersed experience. Muti is fairly predictable in what he wants from an orchestra, but he's important for a wannabe conductor like me to watch. Frankly, I was in tears in the first choral section and broke down at the end. It was an overwhelming experience. Beauty...human inspired and produced beauty. I watched the video of the national anthem today...so-so...and then heard the crowd booing and while I couldn't anything distinctly, I knew there was a lot of hate being shouted and directed in entirely the wrong direction to the entirely wrong group of people. I heard one of the most beautiful works of art ever created last night and heard the absolute worst of human utterances today. I've with that forever (indeed, we all have), but I think I never had the experience of hearing the joy of that music and the joy in the audience applause so close to such an ugly, vile, disgusting response to a personal belief. Beethoven never heard his 9th; I wish with all my heart the athletes didn't have to hear that shit being shouted to them.

Today was the day that National Football League players decided to show solidarity and flip off racial bigotry in this country and generally hand a big "FUCK YOU" to the nazi-in-chief. He, of course, didn't get it. He tends not to unless something goes his way. Happily, that's happening less and less.

Someone shared a video of players on one knee and staff behind them arm-in-arm in solidarity, a right guaranteed in our Constitution. "Taking a knee" has been compared to flag burning. Flag burning gets people riled up, but it's protected speech, according to our Supreme Court. Somebody sang the national anthem and the place erupted in hate...screaming, cursing, and that is covered by the Constitution, too, but it finally made me give up on this country. I wrote under the video:

"I wish I could just die already. These fucking people are so ignorant, so stupid, so unamerican. The biggest sacrifice any of them made was buying tickets for the game...and for the beer that's already in them. I just don't want to be part of the asshole's (and assholes') country anymore. You're going to tell me not to quit. Fuck that. I've worked for rights all my life. I'm fucking tired. There are those my age who are still trying to influence the government. My experience, while fulfilling and gratifying, shows me that they don't really give a fuck and, like the people in this crowd, don't and never will understand. You need to do my work for me. I fucking quit."

A person I feel particularly close to wrote back and suggested I should just take a break.  I replied that I did and it didn't change anything.  But I felt this person was owed a better explanation.

"We have been forced to grow tough skin through no fault of our own. We have had every ignorant statement, every hateful threat, every bit of indignant treachery hurled at us when we least expect...and for some of our tribe, it has been much worse. Until Jerry Falwell took over, usurped, and bastardized Christianity, I ascribed it to ignorance. Falwell and Robertson turned gay hating, gay bashing, gay fearing into a cottage industry, one that they both discovered changed their cottages into mansions. At our expense. And at the expense of anyone so stupid as to send these horrendous excuses for human beings all their money. I took the abuse, I tried to rationalize it, I tried to be patient, I tried turning every cheek I had, I tried to forgive them the suggested 70 x 7 times. And nothing changed. "So today, hearing about the church people who were shot and one killed, I found myself thinking "good." At least a few of them will actually be victims. (I DO feel differently about the people killed in Charleston.) I could muster no sympathy, no positive feelings for them, even the person who died. I heard the vile roar of a disgusting mob and decided I'd had it. I will love and encourage Christians and pay no attention to the xns. I will love and encourage my friends and other people I know here and pretty much disregard everyone else. I will devote my time to the chorus I direct and to the silly music I do through the week. As Constantine tells Skeeter in "The Help," "Everyday you wake up not dead in the ground, you gotta ask yourself this question: Am I gonna believe all the bad things those fools gonna say about me today." No, and I think I'll stop listening, too. If the decision is bad, then I made the wrong decision. If I can no longer love or believe or tolerate what's going on in this country and choose to turn my back on it, it's because I can no longer justify working to change it. That's for younger people to do. "I, a lily white boy from a lily white community, demonstrated, wrote letters, sat at a lunch counter to protest the treatment of people of color in our country. I vehemently protested the Vietnam War...NOT the soldiers who were sent there, but the war itself and then the increased lying by Johnson and Nixon. I have demonstrated and written letters regarding marriage equality. And I'm fucking tired. And it's as if anything I did, anything I believed, hasn't mattered. So, yeah. I've disconnected. I'll still be here...how can anyone leave this oasis? But I tried for years to make a difference and am ultimately discouraged by my failure."

I do not like the United States anymore and truly wish I could leave, but I can't. So I shall spend my remaining time in my apartment. Fuck it all.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Morning The World Almost Ended

Saturday, February 20, 1971, around 9:30.  I was the mid-morning DJ on WGSA-AM, a very small market daylight station in Ephrata, Pennsylvania.  It was far from my first morning on the air.  In fact, I had settled into a Saturday morning routine.  I was Program Director, not bad for a 25-year-old, even for a small market station.

It was two days before Washington’s Birthday (this was before President’s Day combined the Lincoln/Washington holidays), the commercial load was light, probably spots for a few Washington’s Birthday sales, a hardware store, a car dealership, and a few other things.  The newsguy had gone for his morning break…his next newscast would be at noon.  Because the commercial load was light, I’d pulled some longer records from the library so I could enjoy the music.

At 9:33 every Saturday morning, United Press International (UPI), sent out its test for its part of the Emergency Broadcast System.  It was always the same…a succession of ten rings of the bell, the teletype would print that it was a test, I’d log that it was received and when it was received.  Like checking the readings on the transmitter meters, it was routine.

The teletype bell could be heard in Master Control, but the room was sufficiently soundproofed and the ringing wouldn’t go out over the air.  As I said, I was playing several long songs.  Probably “MacArthur Park” with Richard Harris.  It was always good for when you had to go to the bathroom.  So was “Hey, Jude.”


There was a lot of time left on the record, so I decided to rip the UPI test off the machine and log it.  There was something different about the look of it.  It was the message that came in with the ten bells, but I realized it didn’t have the row of Xs at the top and bottom of the test.  And then I read it…

THIS IS AN EMERGENCY ACTION NOTIFICATION (EAN) DIRECTED BY THE PRESIDENT.  NORMAL BROADCASTING WILL CEASE IMMEDIATELY.  ALL STATIONS WILL BROADCAST EAN MESSAGE ONE PRECEDED BY THE ATTENTION SIGNAL, PER FCC RULES.  ONLY STATIONS HOLDING NDEA MAY STAY ON AIR IN ACCORD WITH THEIR STATE EBS PLAN.
BROADCAST EAN MESSAGE ONE.
MESSAGE AUTHENTICATOR:  HATEFULNESS/HATEFULNESS

I logged it and hunted for the file in the newsguy’s desk that had the authenticator words.  “Hatefulness/Hatefulness.”  That’s what it said on the message and that’s what it said in the envelope in his UPI book in his desk.

Was the country under attack?  The message would not be sent unless the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) sent it.  I couldn’t believe it:  We were at war.  The world was about to come to an end.  So was the record.

I was the only person in the building.  I had to decide whether to read the announcement located in the plastic pocket at the front of the copy bin, whether to sign off and turn off the transmitter (which by FCC law I could not do), or whether this was maybe a mistake.  If I was playing “MacArthur Park,” the cake was about to melt in the rain.  Whether he’d ever have that recipe again seemed somewhat irrelevant.

ICBMs with multiple atomic warheads were flying toward the US.  How many would explode near us?  Philadelphia was within an hour’s drive to the southeast, so maybe the wind would blow away the fallout; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s state capital, was also about an hour away, but to the west, from which the wind usually blows.  Washington, DC was south. 

“MacArthur Park” ends with a chorus singing “Oh, no!” about a dozen times.  And that was exactly what I was thinking.  “Oh, no.  What in the world am I going to do?”

The song ended and I turned on the microphone.  That was when I decided to delay announcing the approach of Armageddon.  As best as I could, I back-announced the record, gave a quick weather report (a good day for annihilation), started the next record and cued up the one after that.  I can’t not tell people that their lives will soon be ending, I thought, but…but…Nixon notwithstanding, we can’t be under attack.  I couldn’t remember any acts of provocation lately.

The station was an ABC News affiliate and I monitored it to hear if they were giving instructions or news stories about the launch and retaliation or tips on what to do in the event of nuclear disaster.  Network sounded normal.  I had to read a commercial and play one or two others.  I was a reasonably good voice actor at the time and managed to get through the commercial without stammering or panicking (“So go to Emerson’s Hardware now and get those weekend supplies… before we’re all blown up!”). 

By now the time was approaching 10.  The newsguy didn’t do local news at 10, which was why he was out of the building, so I decided that if it were the end of the world, ABC could tell us.  Our format had us play music up to 10 seconds before the hour, then give a quick station ID and go to network.  The music was coming to an end when I heard bells on the teletype again.  I had to ignore that.  Music out…station ID and time check…ABC News.  I ran out of Master Control to the teletype and saw this:

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

MESSAGE AUTHENTICATOR:HATEFULNESS/HATEFULNESS

CANCEL MESSAGE SENT AT 09:33EST  REPEAT CANCEL MESSAGE SENT AT 09:33EST

MESSAGE AUTHENTICATOR:HATEFULNESS/HATEFULNESS

29 FEB 09:59EST

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

It took about 30 minutes to tell us that they made an “Oops.”  I felt so relieved I almost cried until I saw the date…29 Feb.  This was 20 Feb.  Had the Russians taken over the teletype system as part of their insane mission?  I didn’t log it because I was running out of time.  I rushed back into Master Control, gave the weather, tried to say something pleasant (“…and the probability of nuclear attack today is 50 percent.”) 

When the commercial load permitted, we were to come out of the news with the weather and go right into a record, play a jingle, and go into the next record.  Toward the end of the second record, the UPI bell started ringing.  Whether I had enough time or not, I ran to the newsroom to see what they had to say:

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

MESSAGE AUTHENTICATOR:IMPISH/IMPISH

CANCEL MESSAGE SENT AT 09:33EST  REPEAT CANCEL MESSAGE SENT AT 09:33EST

MESSAGE AUTHENTICATOR:IMPISH/IMPISH

20 FEB 10:13EST

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX


Now the date was correct, the top and bottom rows of Xs were there, but the authenticator word had changed.  I ran back into the control room, started the next record, and ran back to the newsguy’s desk to check the authenticator.  “Impish/Impish” was next in line after “Hatefulness/Hatefulness.”  I clipped all three pieces of paper to the news log, entered times, and went back to MCR, where I stayed.  It was as good a place as any to incinerate.

Later in the 10 o’clock hour, the newsguy returned.  I could hear him shout, “What?”  And then I could hear him rushing to the control room.  He wanted an explanation.  I told him there was none to give, but I decided to stay on the air and, in fact, the Russians weren’t coming.  By that time, when he cleared the wire, a couple of stories had run explaining the oops and assuring us that everything was just fine.

Monday morning, this was on my desk:

IF THE UNITED STATES WERE BEING ATTACKED, THE EMERGENCY ACTION NOTIFICATION SYSTEM WOULD TELL YOU ABOUT IT.  THROUGH THAT SYSTEM, CIVIL DEFENSE ALERTS RADIO AND TELEVISION STATIONS ACROSS THE COUNTRY IN A MATTER OF SECONDS.
            THOSE MESSAGES ARE SENT BY CIVIL DEFENSE OFFICIALS AT THE NORTH AMERICAN AIR DEFENSE COMMAND HEADQUARTERS NEAR COLORADO SPRINGS --- VIA THE TELETYPE CIRCUITS OF U-P-I AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS--- TO THOUSANDS OF RADIO STATIONS.
            AND --- LIKE ALL SYSTEMS ---THIS ONE MUST BE CHECKED OCCASIONALLY, SO CIVIL DEFENSE AUTHORITIES SCHEDULE TESTS TWICE A WEEK.
            ONE IS SCHEDULED FOR SATURDAY MORNINGS---AND THIS MORNING’S TURNED INTO A TRAGIC MISTAKE THAT LEFT THE COUNTRY BREATHLESS.  A CIVIL DEFENSE TELETYPE OPERATOR SENT THE WRONG MESSAGE---A MESSAGE SAYING THERE WAS A NATIONAL EMERGENCY. . . AND THAT---BY ORDER OF THE PRESIDENT---ALL NORMAL BROADCASTING SHOULD CEASE IMMEDIATELY.
            IN MOST PLACES, IT DIDN’T.

"In most places, it didn’t”…including Ephrata, Pennsylvania. It continued:

AND---WHILE THAT’S A GOOD THING IN THIS CASE---IT HAS LED TO SOME CAUSE FOR ALARM OVER THE ENTIRE EMERGENCY NOTIFICATION SYSTEM.
            THE BROADCASTERS SHOULD HAVE STOPPED THEIR NORMAL PROGRAMMING IMMEDIATELY (GARBLE) HUNDRED OUT OF SEVERAL THOUSAND DID.
            IF IT HAD BEEN AN AUTHENTIC EMERGENCY, THAT WOULD HAVE CAUSED TROUBLE.
            BUT THERE IS AN EXPLANATION.
            TODAY, THERE WAS CHAOS IN VIRTUALLY EVERY NEWSROOM ACROSS AMERICA.  NO ONE HAD EVER SEEN AN ACTUAL EMERGENCY AUTHENTICATOR BEFORE.  SOME STATIONS WENT OFF THE AIR IMMEDIATELY---OTHERS DIDN’T.
            THERE WERE SEVERAL REASONS.
            IN THE FIRST PLACE, THE MESSAGE ITSELF WAS INCOMPLETE.
IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ENDED WITH A ROW OF “X”’S AND 10 BELLS.  IT WASN’T.
            IN THE SECOND PLACE, U-P-I AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS WERE QUICK TO ADVISE BROADCASTERS WITH BULLETINS THAT THE REPORT WAS ERRONEOUS.
BUT MOST CAUSE FOR CONCERN COMES FROM THE THIRD REASON.  THERE WAS A DISCREPANCY OVER WHICH AUTHENTICATOR WORD WAS THE PROPER ONE.  AUTHENTICATOR WORDS CHANGE DAILYS AND BROADCASTERS HAVE LISTS GIVING THE WORDS.   THE WORD TRANSMITTED WITH TODAY’S MESSAGE WAS “HATEFULNESS.”  IT WAS THE WORD ON MOST LISTS.  BUT SOME BROADCASTERS COULDN’T FIND THAT WORD ON THEIR LISTS. . .AND HUNDREDS NEVER RECEIVED THE TRANSMISSION.
            ALSO COMPLICATING THE PROBLEM WAS THAT THE MESSAGE CAME AT THE USUAL TEST TIME. . .AND MANY BROADCASTERS IGNORED IT, THINKING IT WAS THE TEST.
            ALL THIS HAS CAUSED SPECULATION THAT THE ENTIRE NOTIFICATION SYSTEM SHOULD BE OVERHAULED.
-0-

            AMONG THE COMMENTS BY THE BROADCASTERS WERE THESE:
            THIS CONFUSION SHOWS “THE WHOLE DARN (SYSTEM) WON’T WORK.  THEY COULD HAVE BEEN DROPPING H-BOMBS ON US.”
            AN EL PASO, TEXAS, STATION SERVING 300,000 LISTENERS NEVER RECEIVED ANY MESSAGE---EITHER THE EMERGENCY NOTIFICATION OR THE CANCELLATION.  “WHAT IF IT HAD BEEN THE REAL THING?” A NEWSMAN THERE WONDERED.
            ANOTHER NEWSMAN SAID:  “THIS OUGHT TO BE EXPOSED.  THE SIMPLE FACT IS, MOST PERSONNEL SIMPLY DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO IN THESE CASES.”
SAID ANOTHER, “IT’S A GREAT WAY TO SEE WHO’S ON THE BALL.”
            BUT---WHATEVER THE RESULT---THE INVESTIGATIONS AFTER INVESTIGATIONS ARE SCHEDULED AND MANY OBSERVERS SAY IT COULD RESULT IN CHANGING THE CURRENT SYSTEM. . .STAGGERING TEST TIMES. . . AND, POSSIBLY, FORCING BROADCASTERS TO COMPLY MORE THAN THEY DID TODAY.
            -0-
            THIS WHOLE STREAM OF CRITICISM COMES FROM THE MISTAKE OF ONE MAN---A MAN NAMED W-S EBERHARDT.  IT WAS EBERHARDT WHO PUT THE WRONG TELETYPE TAPE INTO HIS TRANSMITTER AND SENT IT TO THOUSANDS OF THE NATION’S BROADCAST STATIONS.
            ONE CIVIL DEFENSE SPOKESMAN CALLED IT “A SIMPLE HUMAN ERROR.”
            BUT SIMPLICITY IS HARDLY THE WORD.
            WHEREEVER [SIC] WORD OF THE ALERT MESSAGE WAS BROADCAST, PEOPLE PANICKED.  POLICE AND RADIO STATIONS RECEIVED THOUSANDS OF CALLS FROM PEOPLE WONDERING WHAT THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY WAS.
            AND IT WAS NOT UNTIL ABOUT 45 MINUTES AFTER THE ALERT STARTED THAT TICIL [SIC] DEFENSE OFFICIALS CANCELLED IT. 
            FOR NEWSMEN---AND THE PEOPLE THEY GIVE THE NEWS TO---IT WAS A FRIGHTENING EXPERIENCE.
            IT MADE THIS DAY’S TWO AUTHENTICATOR WORDS “HATEFULNESS” AND “IMPISH” STAND OUT IN THE MINDS OF MANY.
            AND---IN THE WORDS OF ONE VIRGINIA BROADCASTER---“(WE’RE CONSIDERING BILLING NORAD FOR THREE SETS OF UNDERWEAR.)  THE REAL BAD PART WAS WHEN WE OPENED THE ENVELOPE AND THE WORDS MATCHED.”
            -0-
ANDREW MCGILL – UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL 2/20

The News Director, who never worked weekends, said I did the right thing as far procedure was concerned, and that I was right that the FCC prohibited me from turning off the transmitter.  He also liked that I monitored ABC.  He and the Station Manager didn’t completely congratulate me, but the Sales Manager perked up when I told the Station Manager that I didn’t drop any commercials.  That seemed to appease them.

This recollection came about when one day I just happened to remember The Morning the World Almost Ended.  I researched it a bit and found an article by Jesus Diaz on gizmodo.com.  Posted July 5, 2012 and titled This Message from NORAD Announced Global Nuclear War—In 1971.  The UPI messages were supplied by Mike Anderson, who was working that morning at KTEM in Temple, TX. 

It’s fun to think back on it now.  Living through it?  Not so much.





















Saturday, May 20, 2017

It's Not Brawny, But...

The Food Bank I go to also offers one non-food item.  It could be the little travel-size tube of toothpaste, mouthwash, or shampoo, or regular-size soap or toilet paper.  It is a welcome, if limited, service.  There is a church-sponsored program that supplies an alleged month's worth of non-food items, but I've turned down their services because they are a coalition of fundamentalist churches.  It may be a matter of cutting off my nose to spite my face, but I refuse to be a statistic to make them feel all warm and fuzzy inside while they continue to treat my tribe like shit.

Among the Food Bank volunteers are a husband and wife team whom I always hope are on duty.  She is very pretty and fun; he is friendly and, more importantly, he is physically my "type."  Well, one of them:  Probably in his 50s, salt and pepper hair (not particularly short), salt and pepper beard, and cute as a button.  They quite clearly are still in love, and I think they like helping other people, whether they see that as a human or religious duty or they want to give back to the community.  I'm always happy when they're there.

Last time, I asked for a roll of paper towels.  He brought out a roll and said, "Well, it's not Brawny, but..." and his voice kind of trailed off.  We both had a chuckle at this Brand X, utterly generic, probably dollar store variety of paper towels, and we moved on to choice of meat.

As I walked home, a couple of things hit me.  How we trust and prefer brand names to lesser-known products.  We prefer to believe the tag line (such as "the quicker picker upper") to trying something else.  And I thought, "Maybe it won't pick up everything on the first pass, but it feels soft and it will absorb...and it's free."

Also, most of my professional life, I would have remarked the same as Mr. Handsome Volunteer Guy.  We were far from wealthy, but Jack and I were comfortable and we would go with the name brand items.  There is, after all, a certain cache when "preferred" brands are visible.  However, as money became scarce, the items on sale were considered more seriously than before.  Then it became a necessity to look for maybe the almost-lowest-priced items.  By the time I considered suicide, the dollar store was the first stop.

It's interesting to look back, if only to appreciate where I am now.  If I remember correctly (and, anymore, that's not a given), my highest income was nearly $50,000, before taxes and other deductions.  I was there, I think, for two years.  The job changed and I was paid less; I was laid off and was offered less when I was re-hired.  Between my pension and Social Security, my income is a tad more than $23,000.  That's usually over the cut-off point for any kind of social service consideration.  I am very well aware and quite thankful that I am above poverty level, but between payments for this, that, and the other thing, I rarely have anything I can spend...you know, "mad money."

Once marriage equality became legal in 2015, Jack and I decided against getting married because we would both take a hit on our Social Security incomes.  That's normal, that's why an unmarried grandma lives with that man...they would, essentially, be punished by the government for being married, so they live together.  Jack's Social Security was for his disability; somehow, it was assumed he could survive on $500 a month...and $16 worth of food stamps.  That's $6000 a year for someone the government acknowledged could not work.  I did not enter into consideration because we were "just roommates."

I challenge anyone in government to live on $500 a month.  It is unimaginable to me, although I know that many people have to.  And some of those people have kids.  "Well, they should be able to make ends meet with this." Seriously?  Is that being humanitarian or socialist?  Or is it more like "I've got mine; fuck you"?

I spent the last hour reviewing different English translations of the Bible story of The Good Samaritan, Luke 10: 25-37*.  Except for a few word differences, the moral is the same. Who is your neighbor, the one whom you are supposed to show love and compassion toward?  Oddly, not the person who shares your religious or political beliefs.  Some of us think life is like that.

My life is not what it was.  My husband died, I'm retired, I'll be 71 in a couple of months, I am "making do" the best I know how.  This doesn't matter to the husband and wife team who work at the Food Bank.  They are probably Republicans, because the majority in the area are, and they may well have voted for #45, since he won by a large margin here. They may well be of the popular religion, but I consider them worthy of the uppercase C for Christian.  If they are Christian, they are trying to follow the namesake.  From my viewpoint, that's pretty refreshing.

*The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.35 And the next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Saturday, May 6, 2017

USA: The New Banana Republic

Welcome to the new normal, which is thoroughly abnormal.  The US congress will do nothing about censorship by internet providers for two reasons:
1) The companies in question are private companies and can make up their own rules about service; 
2) Congress passed a bill that allows internet providers to sell the information they gather.

I really don't like living in the US anymore.  I was never an "America -- love it or leave it" kind of guy.  We had statements written by our founders, though, that I felt were worth fighting for and worth working on to improve the country.  "All (people) are created equal."  "We, the people" rather than "Some of us" or "Those with the most money."  "Equal justice under law."  "Freedom of religion" which also means "freedom from religion."  "The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."  I used to think that everyone mattered, which was why I was a demonstrator for civil rights in the '60s.  I am white, but it was important to me that we all be able to live equally, that we all could drink from the same water fountain and go to the same schools.  I never thought I'd feel the same about being gay, but now that's come up again...it's all right to discriminate against LGBT people if serving us goes against their "deeply held religious beliefs."  That is to say, "fundamentalist 'christian' beliefs."  I really do wish the Church of Scaffies were real and active in the US so I could discriminate against the fundamentalists because of my deeply held religious beliefs.

Do you know how much it hurts me to hope that those helping the persecuted gay Chechens don't try to seek asylum in the US?  What happened to "Give me your...huddled masses yearning to breathe free"?  They would be turned away at customs, probably after a long and emotionally painful detainment.  They are, after all, the three things Those in Charge hate:  homosexual, brown, and Muslim (by default, if not actually).  Any one of those labels are now valid to challenge one seeking sanctuary; all three?  Enjoy your flight back. And if they were granted asylum, some of the good citizens around them would probably make life hell for them.  We are a country whose leaders currently seek to cut off federal funds to cities that declare themselves "sanctuary cities."  The "golden door" referred to on the plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty has been shut and locked.

Corporations bowing to religious pressure is not new and I see no reason for that to change. The US isn't supposed to be a religion-based country but it is. The government is supposed be "of the people, by the people, for the people" and it clearly is not.  I'm appalled and disgusted by how low the US has crashed in the last few months.  The prospect that it will sink even deeper is probable. I'm 70.  In just a few months, I have given up hope that the country will return to its senses, that the ideals will again become possible and working toward those ideals will be honorable, and that civility and compromise will return to public discourse.  It would be so nice if we were once again "we, the people" as opposed to "us and them" ("them" said with a sneer), but I think that corner has been turned.

We've gone from "All (people) are created equal" to the ultimate rule in George 
Orwell's Animal Farm:  "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

The country is not what it was.  The country is certainly not what it could be. The country is in no way what it should be, if it still had ideals.