Today I find the mask useful
along with sunglasses
to hide my tear streaked face,
not wanting to scare the barista
who has enough to deal with
behind his own mask.
-Transitions” by Tammi Truax, poet laureate of Portsmouth, NH.
Barred from using their official position for partisan political purposes
Not being a masochist, I watched only excerpts of the Republican National Convention. I had decided that I didn’t want to have to get a new television because I had thrown my shoe through the set.
And by the end of the week, the GOP may have largely succeeded in achieving its goals. The fact that some of its actions were inappropriate, probably illegal, and largely false may not really much matter.
Who cares about the Hatch Act?
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo’s speech, while on an official visit from Israel has incinerated norms. The Hatch Act bars State Department employees from using their official position for partisan political purposes. Surely, this was partisan political activity while on duty. But the boost to the reelection campaign may have been achieved. “Using Jerusalem as the venue, Pompeo has further politicized the U.S.-Israeli relationship with an electioneering pitch.”
Compare this with what Colin Powell said in 2004. “As secretary of state, I am obliged not to participate in any way, shape, fashion, or form in parochial, political debates. I have to take no sides in the matter.” But Pompeo is a politician, not a diplomat.
The naturalization ceremony for five people – hey, djt LIKES immigrants! – was a nice touch, if incongruous with his 2016 campaign and regime. And a surprise political event for two of the women being sworn in. Having acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf on hand could also be a violation of the Hatch Act.
Plus the White House was used as a backdrop for Melania’s well-received speech. I did LOL when she said her husband “has not, will not lose focus on you.” The setting may not have violated the law, only precedent, and decorum.
“America is not racist”
You know that conversation America has been having about race recently?
Instead of attacking Joe Biden directly, much of the GOP seems satisfied with attacking those around him. Joe is a puppet of AOC and her ilk, the narrative goes. Republicans are attempting to convince voters that nothing less than “Western civilization” was at stake. So registered foreign agent Pam Bondi attacks Biden for … corruption? Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa tells the crowd that Joe is going to ban farm animals?
Biden, correctly, I believe, thinks the GOP is seeing the unrest in Wisconsin as a “political benefit.” Perhaps that’s why the RNC gave prime time to vigilantes.
But even Ann Coulter, in bashing the media, notes the ineptitude of IMPOTUS. “As the country burns, Trump (the president) sits in his bed sending out gratuitously bad-ass tweets… followed by utter spinelessness. He talks like he’s Yosemite Sam, then does nothing. This is the worst of everything…
Washington Post editorial board: “But beyond the low unemployment rate he gained and lost, history will record Mr. Trump’s presidency as a march of wanton, uninterrupted, tragic destruction. America’s standing in the world, loyalty to allies, commitment to democratic values, constitutional checks and balances, faith in reason and science, concern for Earth’s health, respect for public service, belief in civility and honest debate, a beacon to refugees in need, aspirations to equality and diversity and basic decency — Mr. Trump torched them all.”
Somehow the guy is “trying to run as both the incumbent and the outsider.” He is right, though, about one thing. “The choice… is stark, calling this ‘the most important election in the history of our country.’” Polling in August does not win elections in November.
Here is another edition of J. Eric Smith’s game show, Favorite Songs by Favorite Bands. Once again, I pulled a solo artist. If I HAD picked a band for this time period, it’d likely be The Beatles again, who had started putting out the Anthology albums.
Over a half-century, I kept discovering and rediscovering Johnny Cash. From his early hits, I knew who he was. He sang the theme for The Rebel (1959-1962) TV show. The prison albums catapulted him to new fame. I watched his great TV show (1969-1972) which had a lot of rock, pop and soul singers as well as country stars; I just discovered it’s being rerun in my area.
But by the early 1980s, I’d largely lost track of him, except for his appearances with the Highwaymen. Well, he had a good quarter-century run. But then he guests on a U2 album, singing The Wanderer!
Shortly thereafter, he did that first American Recording, produced by Rick Rubin, that came out in 1994. And I’m a John R. Cash fan once again. The second disc, with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as his backup band, was also quite appealing. So I had to buy some old Johnny Cash, a greatest hits CD plus Folsom Prison and San Quentin.
The third album was released in 2000, and the fourth in 2002. Right after he died in 2003, Unearthed was released. It contained outtakes and alternate versions of songs recorded for those four American Recordings. It also contained My Mother’s Hymn Book, gospel songs Cash first learned as a child. The final disc is the best of collection from those four albums.
My favorite Johnny Cash songs lean heavily on his latter period. And I’m limiting it to 10 because otherwise, it’d be 50. Only the top 2 are for sure in those positions.
kappa. Redemption Song, with the late Joe Strummer, written by the late Bob Marley, from Unearthed. There are lots of gems there.
iota. God’s Gonna Cut You Down from the posthumous fifth American Recording, the history of the song appears HERE.
theta. Ring Of Fire. Hey, I’m a sucker for the horns, for the Carters’ harmonies…
eta. We’ll Meet Again – the last song on the last album he released before he died. Incidentally, Vera Lynn, most associated with the song, died this year.
zeta. Personal Jesus. Originally performed by Depeche Mode. 4th American album.
epsilon. I Walk the Line – this song defined JRC for me when I was growing up
delta. I Hung My Head from the 4th American album. I owned the Sting original version first and still recognized that Johnny had usurped it from the composer.
gamma. Rusty Cage from the 2nd American album. Written by the late Chris Cornell of Soundgarden
beta. Hurt from the 4th American album. Written by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. The song was nominated for best male video at the MTV VMAs but lost to Justin Timberlake. Timberlake said in his acceptance speech “This is a travesty! I demand a recount. My grandfather raised me on Johnny Cash.”
alpha. The Mercy Seat from the 3rd American Recording. A cover of a Nick Cave song.
Next time period
Beach Boys (2005-2008). My friend Donna George died back in 2002. I had given her a box set of the Beach Boys, and I took it back, with her blessing the month before she died. After the baby was born, I needed musical comfort food and they were the choice.
August 28 is a momentous date in US history. I was thinking about a question someone asked me earlier his year. It was whether someone – Bryan Stevenson, specifically, but it doesn’t matter – was the “new Martin Luther King, Jr.”
A couple of minutes later, I realized it was the wrong question. King gave the “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC on this date in 1963. While he may have been a singularly gifted orator, HE wasn’t the Civil Rights Movement. There were a quarter of a million people at that demonstration alone. They all struggled to create racial justice back at home.
Millions have fought the fight since before the founding of the United States and still do so today. Most of them have names we don’t know. Some we’re familiar with because of the abuse they suffered. John Lewis, who was the youngest speaker on this date in 1963 in Washington, is recognized because he survived violence on several occasions, notably in Selma on March 7, 1965.
Others we know, probably better because they were killed. The deaths of Medgar Evers (1963) and James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner (1964) are seared in my memory. But so are the murders of Rev. James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo, both in March 1965 in Alabama. Malcolm X’s 1965 death is being reinvestigated in 2020.
Emmett Till was murdered on August 28, 1955, in Mississippi. I’ve mentioned him more than once here. He might have been just another black kid killed by bigotry. But his mom had the courage to let his beaten corpse be shown to the world. My daughter went to the National Museum for African American History and Culture in February 2020 with a bunch of church folk. One of her friends was stunned by the inhumanity of his death.
Obviously, we haven’t achieved that “post-racial” nirvana some people – not I – predicted after Barack Obama was elected President in 2008. BTW, he accepted the Democratic nomination on August 28 of that year. But it’s not going to be an Obama or a King or the mother of Emmitt Till who will change the world. It’ll just have to be all of us.
Back in June, my friend Mary, not to be confused with my other friend Mary, asked me about the derivation of the duck. This is both easy in the micro sense and unclear in the macro.
In my FantaCo days, we published this comic book called Smilin’ Ed. Ed was a rat. I mean literally, FantaCo’s rascally rodent mascot. The character was drawn by the late Raoul Vezina. The stories were by Tom Skulan and Raoul. Invariably, he put us FantaCo folk in the stories. I was a duck.
Why was I a duck? I’m not sure. It may that I used to do a decent imitation of Donald Duck, only less comprehensible. BTW, I can still do that. Why? Why wouldn’t I?
Then again, I’ve always had affection for fowl since I first heard Henhouse Five Plus Two cluck In The Mood. I knew then that almost any music could be done in chicken.
I’m a duck in the Smilin’ Ed story in the X-Men Chronicles, and in a huge birthday card that Raoul drew of me reading the New York Times. He did this particular drawing for a friend of mine. When I got my own URL, I decided to use the drawing.
Which reminds me
I’ve been, in my purported free time, working on a Wikipedia page for Raoul. It’s not that I have too little information but too much. His friends, including one who has recently died, have sent me at least 100 emails. They contain tidbits of info about Raoul, including a bunch of items I didn’t know. He did a few album covers. Music was as much a passion of his as art. He often combined the two.
For instance, he had started, but never completed, a comic book about the legendary Albany band Blotto of I Want To Be A Lifeguard fame. I’m hoping that when my family goes back to school, whenever that might be, I’ll get back to it.