A Slowed Drivel

It has been since March 1 that I have posted anything. It is not that I have run dry on drivel. Instead stuff happens and I am still trying to make sense of things as they are right now. Here, instead, are a few updates and other bits of nonsense.


Klutz Happens

On March 1 I reported on my eye surgery and the arrival of Ebeneezer (Ebie), our new rescue schnauzer. My eye is nicely healed (20/15 distance vision) and I am beginning to beg my ophthalmologist to let me proceed with having the cataract in my right eye fixed as well. Ebie is settling in and we are learning that he has a special ability…which I will share with you later.

What I did not report, though, was that I tried to act like I was 17 again and paid the price. I was walking Ebie three days after he arrived and he was still very skitterish about his new home and surroundings. As I was trying to unlock the door to our building I dropped the leash and the two “doggy bag” containers attached to it made a big noise when they hit the sidewalk. It scared Ebie and he took off like a tiny, gray rocket. I gave chase.

I thought I had him cornered by a neighbors fence when he to took off again. In a nanosecond I thought, “If I attempt a shoestring tackle I think I can grab the leash as he goes by.” He shot by, I was wrong, and I landed with all of my 186 pounds on a fully extended right arm and shoulder. I heard something go “pop” in my upper right arm as I struggled to get up. Ebie, by this time, was standing calmly in the middle of the sidewalk looking at me. I guess the “pop” in my arm was not loud enough to scare him away further…or maybe he just wanted to know what the noise was…or maybe he was curious about my muffled scream of pain.

He did wait patiently while I limped my way over to his leash and picked it up off the ground…with only a bit more pain. Turns out I damaged by my rotator cuff. I did not tear it so no surgery required. Still, it has taken time to heal and I have had to put off golfing for a little while longer.

My real inner klutz appeared though only two weeks ago. Clemencia, Ebie, and I went for a Sunday afternoon walk on the path that runs through our neighborhood. It was a beautiful afternoon after a morning filled will heavy showers. As we walked on the asphalt path, I heard a helicopter flying overhead.

Now, helicopters are not unusual in our skies. We live on the flight path between Washington, DC and Fort Meade and the National Security Agency. There are official helicopters flying over all the time. We also have a hospital about a mile from our home that receives patients by medical helicopters. As a young Iowa farm boy I used to run to the middle of the yard to see an airplane fly over whenever I heard one in the distance. Today all I have to do is look out my windows to see a helicopter go by and even jetliners on approach to BWI airport.

On this occasion, though I have heard and seen hundreds of helicopters fly over our home, I decided I wanted to see this one in particular. So I looked up and kept walking…just as the asphalt path took a slight bend to the left. I stepped off the curb, fought to regain my balance, lost the battle, and landed hard on my knees, hands, shoulder (yes, the injured shoulder), and my head – in that order. Then, for added measure, in a manly attempt to get up quickly, I rolled over into an exquisite mud puddle and soaked my entire backside. There I lay…bloody, bruised, and caked with mud.

All of this to say…I’ve spent a good part of my time since March 1 healing up and doing my best to corral my inner klutz again.


A Few Updates

When I started this blog on March 17, 2020 I had not expected it to last very long and as it went on I introduced a variety of characters. I realized this week I have not kept you abreast of developments with them.

Bert Left and Ernie Right are two wool socks readers met on Day 2 of this blog. They are notorious because I wore them everyday for many, many, many days in this blog. Eventually took on a life and personality of their own – cantankerous personalities if I may be frank. They are still around and I see them occasionally. However, they seem to be spending a lot of time with Beto and Enrique. Readers met Beto Isquierda and Enrique Derecha on Day 15. They appeared as two sunbathing wool socks from Clemencia’s sock drawer. I think they appeared as a response to my sock offensive with Bert and Ernie. The rumor is that the four socks may be plotting something though it is not yet clear what it is. I will probably have to send spies to check them out.

Winthrop Dykstra-Baum appeared on Day 19 of this blog. He is a legendary public radio news personality but, unfortunately, he fell on hard times. He became radicalized and became more so over time. Eventually he left public radio and joined up with Badger New Network. Unfortunately for Windy, Badger News struggled after the attempted coup on January 6th. They were called out for their promotion of what has become known as “The Big Lie” and lost a boatload of corporate advertising. Just to be safe, the Badger News Network is focused now on covering roadkill (you know, like badgers, wolverines, skunks, squirrels, bad toupees, etc.). Windy is now the Senior Editor for “The Stinking Badger Daily,” a roundup of roadkill obituaries.

Alonzo and Starlee are two friends whom we see weekly via Zoom. They introduced us to a way to address one of the greatest challenges in the early days of the pandemic. Remember when it appeared every square of toilet paper in the world was going to be stored in a secret locked vault owned jointly by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, the Pillsbury Dough Boy, and that family of red bears in the Charmin commercial? (Uh oh, might that have just been another “brilliant” QAnon delusion…I mean…conspiracy theory?) Alonzo and Starlee joined the blog on Day 27 when they told us about the magic of the portable bidet. We quickly ordered ours…and received them about a month later. We have them now, though, for the next big run on TP.

Recently we were telling Alonzo and Starlee about the unique ability we have discovered that Ebie possesses. It turns out that Ebie can…well…you know…talk. And he is especially inclined to talk after he has been reading The Guardian. Not sure what that is about; it just is. Alonzo and Starlee did not seemed surprised that I could hear Ebie talking because they have a talented rescue dog too, named Jake.

After I shared some of Ebie’s insights and analysis with Alonzo and Starlee they encouraged me to share some of them in this blog. With Ebie’s permission I will do that. But not in this blog. Next time.

Recommended Reading

Looking for some thought provoking reading? Here are a a few articles I have been pondering.

Letters from an American – March 23, 2021 – An interesting piece from Heather Cox Richardson on the meaning of the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution.

White Evangelicals Do Not Intend to get Vaccinated

The Vital Role of Bystanders in Convicting Derek Chauvin

First America Caucus Platform – This is not an article but it is policy platform of the America First Caucus which a few extremist Republicans were trying to promote. The backlash was so strong that they quickly distanced themselves from it however it is worth reading to see how much worse things could be.


Photo Credit for Featured Image Above

I took the photo of the bags of Sterzing’s Potato Chips however that is not where the credit lies. The credit lies with my sister Jan who sent them to me for my birthday last week. They are made in Burlington, Iowa, near my hometown. She knows I love them because, after all, they are the best potato chip in the world…not just “possibly” as their website header claims.


The View from Jeff

Jeff Explains: It may have been watching too much Str Wars over the holidays, or too many Zoom meetings with too little Just For Men … or a combination of all those factors, but I am sure that there is a clear Rebel Alliance logo in my facial hair.

Be safe, be well, and get your vaccination. Do the right thing for others by continuing to wear your mask, keep distance, wash your hands, and, in every way and every day, stand up for accountability, justice, and peace in our country and our world.

(Adjective) Thanksgiving

What is the most appropriate adjective this year, of all years, for the phrase “_____ Thanksgiving?”

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Lib Thanksgiving

At least one family I know has a fun and funny Thanksgiving tradition. Each year, after dinner, the family sits around the table doing a Mad Lib that has been written by a family member. You remember Mad Libs right?

Those are the fill-in-the-blank stories which are created when people suggest nouns, verbs, and adjectives without knowing what the story is really about. For example, they might be asked for an adjective, verb, and noun for this line:

(ADJECTIVE) Tony (VERB) to the store and bought a (NOUN).

Of course, Mad Libbers don’t actually know the line so the complete sentence could turn out to be very funny, very nonsensical, and even very racy. Usually, they are just very funny. Like, “Upside down Tony gargled to the story and bought a new tire.” Okay, okay…I thought it was funny.

This year we have an actual Mad Lib Thanksgiving. What is the adjective we will use to describe it? Frankly, “happy” doesn’t work for me because this has been a year of such unhappiness for so many and it still isn’t over. While I write the rest of this blog, I’m going to continue to think about how I will answer the question I posed at its beginning.


Thanksgiving Reading

If you are looking to take a break from the endless news cycle and COVID-19 ravaged football games, there are three short pieces I recommend you read today. All came into my email inbox over the past 24 hours and each spoke to me in different ways. Just click on the header link to access each of them.

Letters from an American – November 25, 2020

Heather Cox Richardson, a history professor and writer from Maine, writes a daily blog which my friend Dave introduced me to a few months ago. In this blog she writes about the history of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. It doesn’t follow the story we all learned as children – you know, kindly Pilgrims and even more kindly Indigenous people who didn’t let the Pilgrims starve. It focused instead on how President Abraham Lincoln came to proclaim the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving. More fascinating than how it came to be is why it came to be. I won’t bury the headline but I won’t give it away either. Be sure to give it a read yourself.

Gratitude in Six Words, from Our Readers

Last week, David Leonhardt, the writer of the The Morning newsletter, in the New York Times, asked readers to send him six words that describe what made them thankful in 2020. I found it to be – all at the same – the most beautiful, moving, sweetest, and saddest of all articles I’ve read recently. After a very brief introduction by Leonhardt, the remainder of the article features the six word descriptions submitted by reader. Leonhardt received over 10,000 replies and, of course, he could not publish them all. Here are six that touched me, but, please, take a few minutes and read his list:

The crinkling eye above the mask.

Ambulance took him. He came home.

Held my son as he died.

We’re falling in love over FaceTime.

Alone, spouses thankful for tiny turkey.

This stinking year is almost over.

With Sufficient Force, Pigs Fly Just Fine

This is a blog written by my friend Geri Seiberling. She and her husband, Kevin, started etc!graphics, a visual communications company, in Carlisle, Iowa in 1988. Their office is directly across the street from the building that house the office of my first consultancy business, which I opened in 1998. Geri and Kevin were very helpful to me in establishing the “look” of that business. Unfortunately, that business was just beginning to get a foothold in 2001 when the events of September 11th happened. The subsequent impact on the U.S. economy forced me to finally close the business in 2004 though it actually died in late 2001 and early 2002.

For this Thanksgiving holiday, Geri published her blog as a letter about the year 2020 to her future self (to be opened again next year at this time). It is one of the most creative, hopeful, optimistic pieces I’ve read this year. It very much reflects Geri as I remember her. I’ve not seen her or Kevin since I left Iowa in 2005 but I remember their office was a place I could always stop by when I needed good advice, a sounding board, or just a word of hope and optimism.


Answering the First Question

I opened this blog with this question: What is the most appropriate adjective this year, of all years, for the phrase “_____ Thanksgiving?” I’m going to try to fill in that blank now.

This year I have become more aware of my privilege as a white American male than ever before. My awareness was further expanded about 12 hours ago.

Last night we had a Thanksgiving Zoom with our children. A daughter is in Brooklyn, New York, three hours away. A son and daughter-in-law are in Columbia, Maryland, fifteen minutes away. All three reported being overworked and wildly stressed. All three looked exhausted and like they had aged several years over the past several months. I’m guessing we must have looked older and more worn to them too.

However, we all also reported that we feel fortunate to be in a different place than some of our friends who have lost jobs, income, and loved ones to COVID-19. Also, we have all remained healthy. Only one of us has had a possible exposure to the virus that necessitated COVID-19 testing. We all regularly mask up, maintain physical distance, and otherwise do the right things to ensure we remain healthy, protect others, and don’t become a burden to the already overburdened health system. And, we all feel a certain amount of survivor’s guilt to be so fortunate so far.

I understand my privilege now extends to being one who still has a regular income, a place to call my home, food on the table, minimal worries about the physical health of our children, fewer worries about our children’s financial health and well-being than some parents, a plan to stay safe and well, and the resources to animate that plan.

How dare I, from this position of privilege and through this lens, wish anyone a “Happy” Thanksgiving this year? I don’t dare.

Wherever you are, whatever your situation, I can only hope for you a restful, peaceful, and safe Thanksgiving.


With Appreciation

This week we watched the 33rd Hispanic Heritage Awards on PBS. I usually avoid award shows like…well…the coronavirus. However, being married to a proud Colombian who has made amazing contributions to her adopted country, it seemed appropriate (and wise) to set aside my disdain for award shows and tune in. Besides, it was only an hour long. Any award show, no matter how bad, can usually be endured for sixty minutes.

This year the awards went to Jessica Alba, Selena Gomez, Bad Bunny, Linda Rondstadt, and the majority of the 3 million farmworkers who are Hispanic and Latino who have continued to put food on our tables during the pandemic. There was also a powerful tribute to John Lewis whose work in civil rights also benefitted Latinos and Hispanics. I was moved by the rendition of the National Anthem performed by the all women’s mariachi group Flor de Toloache, whos NPR Tiny Desk Concert you can see below.

The tribute to farm workers was powerful. It was also a humbling reminder of the privilege I enjoy, even at those times when I feel under appreciated and overlooked for everything I think I do.

The tribute to Linda Ronstadt was one of my favorite segments because I have always been a fan of her music and because the tribute featured one of my favorite music groups, The Mavericks, performing several of her hits with various female singers in the lead. Ronstadt no longer performs due to progress supranuclear palsy. The video below features The Mavericks but it is not a Linda Ronstadt song. It is my favorite song by the group and it is an amazing song to dance to to (yes, it is a cha cha…kind of a fast cha cha, but great fun!).

I feel appreciative today after watching the show. If you have about 55 minutes, I recommend you watch the Hispanic Heritage Awards. I think it will inspire you and remind you, as it did me, how much richer and better we are as a country because of those who have come here (as my ancestors did in the late 1800’s) believing in the promise of the United States of America.


Mostly Speechless

Was that a debate?

Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis.

“Road trip” to wave to his fans outside the hospital in Bethesda.

Weird photo op on his return to the White House (yes, he was breathing heavily after climbing the steps…because he is still sick!).

Clueless.

Desperate.

Idiot.

One last thing…here is something you may have missed in the news. It is footage of Trump and a couple of his advisors engaging with some of the people outside the White House to witness his return from the hospital. Really, it is worth the two minutes it takes to watch it.


The View from Jeff

Jeff Logan is celebrating Inktober, which is really lucky for us! During Inktober artists commit to doing a drawing each day of the month based on a prompt. Today features of Jeff’s Inktober drawings based on the prompt, “Bulky.” You can follow Jeff throughout Inktober at his Instagram page.

Jeff explains: Next day of Inktober drawing prompts. Today’s word is Bulky. Made me think that the weather is nice but winter is coming … and with it winter coats!

July 23, 2020 – Magicicadas and Pingüinos

how do they do that?

Summer is a curious time. It’s not my favorite time because I prefer cool weather over hot weather and, wow, is it hot right now. I’ve been a very fair skinned guy all of my life so when I spend too much time in the sun, I begin looking like the (boiled) Lobster Man from Mars. (The movie is truly awful, so awful it is actually pretty good.)

Cicadas make summer tolerable for me. They are among the ugliest creatures on earth but their songs are extraordinary. I’m probably one of those few odd people who long for the return of the magicicada, also known as periodical cicadas. These are the ones which tend to appear in 13 and 17-year cycles.

Magicicada are grouped into “broods” throughout the United States. Based on their last appearance, it is possible to calculate their next appearance. Here in Maryland we have a 17-year magicicada known as the Great Eastern Brood. They last sang for us 2004…well, not for me, I was still living in Iowa then…but they are coming back on tour in 2021. They will be appearing in 14 states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. Woo hoo! I can hardly wait!

I try to take daily walks for exercise and to get out of Clemencia’s hair for a bit. My usual treks take me along some wooded areas where the cicadas have recently been testing their songs. It is one of the most comforting sounds I know and it always takes me back home to summer nights in Iowa.

Not sure what a cicada song sounds like? Here’s a video of a cicada doing a solo. In the background you can also hear a fascinated young child who poses one of those questions bound to stump most parents.

The film version of the Broadway show, The Music Man, is one of our favorite movies. It is about Harold Hill, an unscrupulous salesman of musical instruments and marching band uniforms in the early 20th century. He plies his trade in River City, Iowa and, as usual, plans to collect the money and leave town before the instruments and uniforms arrive. In this way he isn’t found out as a phony music teacher and band leader. In one of my favorite scenes, Hill (played by the late Robert Preston, whose acting career did not usually include singing, by the way) teaches four battling school board members how to sing and they become an inseparable barbershop quartet. The video of this scene below is a bit grainy but the audio is good…especially if you turn it up a wee bit.

So, what does Harold Hill, The Music Man, and this barbershop quartet have to do with the cicada video and song? Remember, in the scene, when one of the board members objects that he can’t sing? Hill tells him, “You see, singing is just sustained talking.” Maybe this also helps the parent answer the child’s question in the cicada video. You know, when we hear the child say, “How’s he do that?” Perhaps the right answer is, “You see, the cicada’s song is just sustained flatulence.” Just saying!


speaking of penguins…

If cicadas remind me of summer, penguins remind me of cooler, happier times. Aside from just the fact that they are incredibly cute and always well-dressed, I love them because of what they are called in Spanish. In Spanish the name for “penguin” is “pingüino” (masculine form) and “pingüina” (feminine form). Don’t know why, I just love the sound of the word and it almost always makes me smile when I say it or hear it. Because it is not a common word to use, I have to work really hard to find ways to use it with my Spanish’speaking spouse. For example:

  • Would you like to go the zoo next year…when we can leave the house again…and see some pingüinos?
  • I know we watched it only two nights ago, but how about if we watch March of the Pingüinos again tonight?
  • Hey, Clemencia, did I tell you I got a phone call from a person who claimed to be a pingüino?
  • Can you believe it? I had another dream about playing basketball with an 8-foot pingüino last night!

My pingüino musings do have a point but only barely. Today’s Washington Post has a photo essay by a Dutch photographer, Albert Dros. He traveled to Antarctica and got some beautiful photos of pingüinos and lots of ice, which is perfect for the heatwave we are enduring at the moment. Enjoy!


One more thing…

Here’s a very fun but brief Instagram posting from Scott Hoying, one of founders and leads in the acapella group, Pentatonix. It is a tribute to Dr. Anthony Fauci based on a song from Hamilton. Enjoy!


chickenman – episode 83

Ms. Helfinger makes an emergency call to the Atlantic Ocean to recall Chickenman to help the Commissioner fight a Very Diabolical.


July 11, 2020 – How To Plan When You Can’t Plan

a musical summer!

Last Friday night Clemencia and I fired up Disney+ and watched Hamilton, a film of the extraordinarily popular Broadway show that won a boatload of Tony’s in 2016. We had to subscribe to Disney+ to see it but, fortunately we got a bundle that includes Hulu and ESPN as well. Weirdly, the cost of the Disney+ for a year is still less expensive than a single seat at most live performances of the show…not that there will be many for the near future.

Okay, for a little more fun with Hamilton, have you seen Weird Al Yankovic’s “The Hamilton Polka?” You’ve got to take five minutes (and one second) to watch it.

If you’ve ever wondered how artist’s react to being parodied by Weird Al, you’ll also enjoy these two links: Lin-Manuel Miranda hears “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “The Hamilton Polka” for the first time and Jimmy Fallon’s interview of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Weird Al, with the story of how it all came together.

We enjoyed Hamilton a lot…in fact, we watched it a second time and let it inspire us to see what other Broadway shows might be available for us to watch this summer. Much to our delight we discovered that PBS is going to start showing Broadway shows on Friday nights as part of its Great Performances: Broadway at Home series. It all begins on PBS on July 24th.

We’ve decided to get an early start by watching several Broadway shows that are also available through streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and, again, Disney+. BroadwayHD is a streaming service that provides access to all kinds of Broadway shows. It is a paid service but at $99.00 a year, it is still less expensive than a ticket for one in the nosebleed section!

how do you plan when you can’t plan?

That’s the question I’ve been helping a number of my clients answer over the past few months. When the pandemic national emergency order was issued on Friday the 13th of March, most of us (except my spouse, Clemencia) were pretty sure this was going to be a two-week bonus vacation, right?

But those two weeks grew into four weeks, then six, then two months, then three months and now we are in our fourth month of an altered reality due to the Novel Coronavirus. Plus, as our understanding the virus changes, it changes how we think about the future – vacation trips, school, working back in our offices with other people (in the flesh), and team sporting events – from junor soccer, to little league, to professional sports.

Let’s be honest. Long-range planning is very difficult, if not impossible, right now. We don’t when, or if, our kids will be in school this Fall. We don’t know if we will be “locked down” again. We don’t have a clue what our lives and our work will look like six weeks from now, not to mention six months.

Such uncertainty is disconcerting and uncomfortable. I have spent the last decade or so becoming comfortable with uncertainty. I have always been a very planful person and I’ve always wanted to know, with a high degree of certainty, what was coming next. Thankfully, I need less certainty today.

Several years ago I became interested in complexity theory and the concept of emergence. Understanding and embracing these has allowed me to help my clients achieve a greater level of peace in the current environment. Planning is an effort to control the uncontrollable. However, there is nothing wrong with planning if we don’t become compulsive about it. In fact, there are good reasons for doing some planning.

It is most valuable when we can think of planning as a form of readiness to adapt when adaptation, or more adaptation, is required. Adaptation is always needed…not just in a highly unpredictable pandemic but at all times because none of us can predict the future. If we could do that, all of us would be rich and all of the casinos and lotteries would have gone broke by now.

At the heart of effective planning in a time of extreme uncertainty there is the need to trust. No, not leaders or other people to save us. We need to trust in a process more than a plan. For example, we may not have a plan for how to get our kids back to school safely, but we need to be able to trust a process for determining how to move forward and yet remain nimble in case circumstances change quickly again. The same is true for re-opening our businesses, bringing people back into work safely, and returning to some sense of life as it was on March 1 rather than March 13.

To trust a process requires us to trust how decisions are made. I have great appreciation for the leader who says, “I’m not exactly sure how we are going to do this, but I know we can figure it out if we consider the information and facts we have, work together on a solution, and be responsible to do our part and follow through.” I have much less appreciation for those who claim to know the answer based on their intuition and “gut.”

If you are leading a team, an organaization, or even a family, try leaning into your uncertainty and trust the process instead of trying to guess your way out of this with a plan. Put down your logic models, theories of change, strategy plans, and organizational charts for a little bit. Just step back and keep your eyes open to the lessons to be learned and the opportunties that are emerging in this new reality.

In brief, trust the process. Know the best answers for this moment will emerge as we move forward as best we can and with openness to those things we can’t see when we overplan. And, remember, you do not have to have all the answers all of the time. Trust that others have answers too.


the view from jeff

chickenman – episode 79

Ms. Helfinger makes an involuntary trip to Dr. Friendly…who sounds a lot like Bela Lugosi. I wonder what he looks like?


June 27, 2020 – Connected by Music

Today is Saturday, June 27, 2020. This is also Sunglasses Day. I’m happy to say everyday is sunglasses day for me…kind of. I wear glasses with transition lenses that turn dark when I’m outside in the sunlight. I love but it doesn’t always set well with the papparazzi who follow me everywhere or the fans that swarm me when I’m in public and want a selfie with me. My automatic sunglasses, of course, hide my eyes. Which means I wear my sunglasses at night?


connected by music

Today Clemencia and I had to pick up Madison’s ashes. We had her cremated after she was euthanized about 10 days ago. (Just to be clear, I’m referring to the older of our two Miniature Schnauzers.) Her ashes came back to us in a beautiful wooden urn, with a nameplate, and a place to put a photo of her. To be honest, we aren’t quite sure what do to with her ashes. We’ll have to think about it a bit.

On the ride this morning to pick up her ashes, we were listening to music of the 1970’s on Sirius XM Radio. Two songs came on that made us realize something pretty cool. Though we grew up a language and two continents apart apart, we had some of the same music in common.

The first song was Terry Jack’s “Seasons in the Sun,” released in December 1973. When the song came on this morning smart alec me said, “You know, when I hear this song the only thing that comes to mind are groups of junior high and high schools girls singing along and crying with this song.” Clemencia’s response was, “Well, one of those was probably me.” “Oh…,” I sheepishly replied.

“Seasons in the Sun” was a one-hit wonder for Terry Jacks, a Canadian musician. The song is about a dying man saying farewell to his loved ones. Ironically, the “B” side of “Seasons of the Sun” was Jack’s original composition about burying a deceased pet dog. From a dying person to a dead dog…seems a bit of leap, don’t you think?

Originally, The Beach Boys had recorded the song with Jacks’ producing it. However, The Beach Boys decided not to do anything with it, so Jacks recorded it on his own label and released it independently.

Much to my shock at the time…and still today…it was a huge song. Within a month of its release it broke into the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and by March it rose to #1 and stayed for 3 weeks. It stayed on the Hot 100 chart until Memorial Day 1974. In Canada it did even better. By late January 1974 it went to RPM’s #1 position and stayed there for four weeks. It also held the #1 position on music charts in Australia, Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Now, if you do the math, that was a whole bunch wailing and sobbing young people out there! In the end, Billboard ranked it as the #2 song overall for 1974.

Not all of its fame was glorious, however. A couple of polls, including one conducted by CNN in 2006, rated “Seasons in the Sun” as one of the worst pop songs ever recorded. Seriously, and with deep apologies to all my good Canadian friends, I so agree with this poll.

Here is the version I remember. Keep you Kleenex close!

Colombians Ana and Jaime, recorded the song in Spanish. They were are a brother and sister duo from Bogota who were known mostly for ballads and protest songs. This is the version that Clemencia remembers.

The second song that came on which we both knew in our respective parts of the world in the 1970’s was “Rose Garden,” sung by Lynn Anderson. “Rose Garden” also did very well in the charts holding #1 positions in several countries, including the U.S. The song, however, is noted for being one of the very first “crossover” hits – from country to pop. It made Country Music Television’s list of “100 Greatest Songs in Country Music” in 2003. Just last year, 2019, Rolling Stone named it as one of the “20 Songs That Defined the Early Seventies.”

Here is the “Rose Garden” I was listening to in 1970. This version is from the BBC’s “Top of the Pops.” It features a live orchestra and a studio full of British teens doing an interesting variety of dances to the tune.

This is the version of “Jardin de Rosas,” by Colombian singer Maria Antonia, that Clemencia was listening to in Colombia. Enjoy!

Today’s musical exploration was a fun excursion into the past and the meaning of muic in our lives. It also reminded us of the power of music to connect people.


the view from jeff

Jeff Explains: With people moving from their curated studio spaces into face to face meetings I can only imagine that coffee shop power bills will spike due to people bringing their own optimal lighting sources.

chickenman – episode 71

Chikcenman had “issues” today and I could not create a link to him. Sorry about that! He’ll be back soon!


June 24, 2020 – It’s Weird Al Wednesday!

Today is June 24, 2020 and Log Cabin Day, founded by Virginia Handy, and the Bad Axe Historical Society in Michigan. It was first recognized in 1986. Log Cabin Day was created to promote the preservation of log cabins and increase understanding of life during the period in the United States when log cabins were widely in use. Seems like a good day to break out the Lincoln Logs! Interesting factoid: Lincoln Logs were invented by John Lloyd Wright, son of the famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.


weird al wednesday!

I confess. I am a Weird Al Yankovic fan. Weird Al’s real name is Alfred Matthew Yankovic, which explains the origin of his moniker. Yes, Weird Al is the guy behind so many of the song parodies we’ve heard or seen on video for over 40 years. I was a bit surprised, and you may be too, to learn that those song parodies have been far better to him than I ever imagined. He has won five Grammys (out of 16 total nominations); had four gold records; and six platinum records.

My first acquaintance with his work was in the mid-1970’s on the Dr. Demento radio show. I was attending school at a tiny college in Western Kansas and Dr. Demento came on every Sunday night. I continued to follow Dr. Demento and Weird Al over the years. Each year now Weird Al appears live at Wolf Trap (well, not this year!) and it is still one of my “bucket list” wishes to go to one of his concerts.

Not that I need another reason to admire Weird Al but here’s one: he was asked to be the guest editor of MAD Magazine in 2015! Now I’m just jealous!

One of the things I learned about Weird Al is that he always asks artists for permission to parody their songs. In an interview in 2015 he revealed the only artist who refused his requests until that time was Prince.

I’m not sure why he came to mind today. Just for totally drivelous fun, I decided to feature some of my favorite Weird Al videos. Enjoy!


“Tacky” is a parody of Pharell William’s “Happy” and is one of my favorites. Weird Al’s singing the lyrics but it also features a number of guest stars lipsyncing the words.

Click here to see Pharrel William’s “Happy”

We don’t always think of Weird Al as a social commentator, right? “First World Problems” is an original Yankovic work that delivers plenty of commentary with humor.

“I Lost on Jeopardy” is one of the first Weird Al videos I ever saw and I loved it. Note that the host of Jeorpardy! in this video is NOT Alex Trebek but his predecessor, Art Fleming. Trebek started hosting Jeopardy! shortly after the Weird Al video was released in December 1983. Unfortunately, I’m not able to embed the video in the blog but if you follow its link, or this one, you should be able to see it.

“Ricky” was Weird Al’s first music video. It was a parody of Tony Basi’s “Mickey.” Again, YouTube is not letting me embed the video here but you can click on the hyperlink, or this one, and it will take you to it on YouTube. In Weird Al’s parody the song is about the “I Love Lucy” show. In it he appears as Desi Arnaz without his moustache, beard, and his hair straightened. He bears a striking resemblance to a young Desi Arnaz.

In the next video, recorded just as the pandemic was beginning in March, Weird Al plays the instrument he knows best – the accordion – in a cover of Classical Gas. Yankovic started playing the accordion on his 7th birthday.

In this last video, Weird Al faces off against Jon Batiste, music director for the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. It showcases the talent of both amazing artists. Enjoy!

Okay, that’s Weird Al Wednesday. I hope you enjoyed the tour and also developed a greater appreciation of this talented comedian and musician.


chickenman – episode 68

Benton Harbor (Chickenman, the Crime Fighting Capon) seems to have some challenges getting out of bed on the weekend. This could be a barrier to his weekend crimefighting!


Day 76 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Tomorrow will be my last in the series “Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place.” In it I’m going to reflect on this 77 day journey and give you a sneak preview of what happens next. I hope you will join me.

Saturday, May 30, 2020 – Live to Blog…Humbled by Beauty and Love

We had coffee again this morning with Alonzo and Starlee. They were camping in one of the most beautiful spots in the world this weekend and we connected on Zoom via their cell phone. The connection was remarkably good! Many people wouldn’t think the place they are camping is so beautiful. There were no mountains, no waterfalls, no beach nothing at all very exotic. However, there were no signs of human existence in their line of sight or within earshot, the stars glow and dance in an endless night sky, and they are serenaded by a symphony of nature sounds we could hear and enjoy even over Zoom. The Great Plains is a place of extaordinary beauty that too many people simply fly over. It has a kind of beauty that is so humbling. In a thousand ways it points to something so much greater and more significant than us. Thank you, Alonzo and Starlee, for sharing the sights and the sounds of where you are sheltering-in-place this weekend.


A Follow-Up on the Day 74 Blog

On Day 74 of this blog I wrote a posting about my own ongoing journey out of racist conditioning. In that posting I told the story of my friend Kevin and his role in my journey. I don’t believe Kevin knew he actually had a role until he and his spouse, Julie, read the post. He was simply being a friend and colleague to me. Actually, that was probably more powerful than any intervention he could have dreamed up.

My follow up to that blog is to share, with their permission, Kevin and Julie’s responses to it. Each sent me notes via Facebook messenger shortly after reading it. I asked if I might share these with you because I realize the blog leaves people to wonder, “What of Kevin?”

As you will see, Kevin is less expressive than Julie but he is thoughtful and makes his words count. Julie is eloquent and heartfelt in her response. However, what each wrote to me touched me deeply and, frankly, reduced me to tears.

From Kevin:
Nicely said. Being aware is good. Living your life with the works of caring to make a difference is another. You are living your life with the works that prove you are and have made a difference. I still have work to do in this area myself. Blessing to you Tom! And thank you!

From Julie:
Tom, I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciated the article you shared with Kevin this morning. In 28 years with my beautiful black husband there have been so many occasions when I have witnessed racism and white privilege.

I have experienced emotions that range from anger, to frustration, to sadness, to pity for such ignorance. I am about as closely related to the black experience as a person can be. And yet, at the end of the day, Kevin’s skin is still black, and mine is still white. Friends who I love say things like, “I don’t see color,” which, to me says one of two things: The person is blind – or they absolutely DO see color! Otherwise why make the statement? I love you, Tom, for being in the struggle. Recent events shine a bright light on the fact that racism is alive and well and on the rise. I am so grateful for your honesty and your willingness to admit your struggle. It brings me to tears to hear a voice that speaks to the reality of the struggle. We hear these voices so seldom.

A book that has enlightened my mind and encouraged me to stay in the good fight is Tears We Cannot Stop (a sermon to white America) by Michael Eric Dyson. Perhaps you have already read it. If not, I highly recommend it. I have offered to lend my copy to several of my white friends. To date, not a single one has taken the offer. Not one.

Thank you again, Tom. You have given me hope today…I confess that I often feel pretty hopeless in the current environment. I have said more than once in the past 3+ years: I would not be surprised to see a burning cross in our yard. I would be terrified, mortified…but not surprised.

Sending love to you and Clemencia.

Thank you, Kevin and Julie, for being our friends, for being so congruent in your lives, for your humbling love, and for letting me share it here.


A Couple of Nudges

Nudge #1: In just a couple of days I’ll be doing a Tamarack Institute webinar with my friend and colleague, Liz Weaver, who is Co-CEO of Tamarack. The webinar is titled Tenacity, Humility, and Collaborative Leadership and it will feature a conversation between Liz and me exploring these topics, with an opportunity for you to be a part of the conversation as well. The webinar is happening on Tuesday, June 2 from 1:00 to 2:00 PM Eastern via Zoom and it is FREE! Please act today to register for it. You sign up here. When last I heard, over 400 webinar seats have been filled, but there are still plenty available.

Nudge #2: ¡Charlemos con Clemencia! is now receiving registrations for the Summer Session, June 15-September 4. This is Clemencia’s website and teaching Spanish to adults is her baby. I admit that I’m a bit biased when it comes to how I view her skills. Still, I’ve spent a good portion of my life in front of audiences as a trainer, workshop leader, and public speaker and I know what it takes to do it well. (That is not to say I have always done it well, just that I know good when I see it.) Clemencia is good! She is one of the best I’ve seen in front of an audience. Learning Spanish with Clemencia is an experience.

I hope you will check out the website, watch the other two brief videos in which Clemencia explains how the classes work. We invite you to consider whether you, or someone you know, is ready for an experience in learning Spanish.

The Adventures of Chickenman

Episode 43 – The Winged Warrior is called upon to help the Mayor of Midland City retrieve a valuable possession which has been lost…is that stolen?

The View from Jeff

Jeff explains: I’m not sure if the shields are 100% germ proof, but they are at 65% sound proof. As a result I find myself unintentionally talking over them (at 6’3” I am tallish enough to not have stuff designed for my height).

Tomorrow – Day 77

Tomorrow will be my last in the series “Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place.” In it I’m going to reflect on this 77 day journey and give you a sneak preview of what happens next. I hope you will join me.


Day 54 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

This blog series was started 53 days ago for one purpose…to provide a brief diversion to people who needed to take a small break from all things COVID-19. It seems to have succeeded for several people – well, okay, at least me…and Clemencia…and the Girls, but then, they are dogs and may not count.

Friday, May 8, 2020 – Live to Blog from Weekend Euphoria (Wait! Is it actually the weekend?)

#alonetogether

I feel funny today. No, not sick funny but funny funny. You know…it’s the way you feel like you want to be funny and think you are funny even if nobody else does? For too many people this is usually associated with having one too many drinks of an adult beverage. Me, I’m just drinking generic diet soda and still feeling funny. So, without further delay…let’s get on with “What I Think Is Funny Friday.”


COVID-19 Humor I Think is Funny from BoredPanda.com

A wonderful COVID-19 take on Grant Wood’s classic “American Gothic.” This one is for my friend Beth Howard, a former resident of that famous house and whom you met earlier this week.

What I Think is Funny from The Tonight Show (but with Johnny Carson)

This is a comedy classic. It makes me laugh everytime. Jack Webb was famous for his deadpan delivery on Dragnet. Here, working with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, his deadpan makes this whole sketch work.


What I think is Funny from The View from Jeff

Jeff and I met in the doctoral program at Eastern University. Reading, research, and writing are the three primary activities of any doctoral student – for years. Jeff captured the most frustrating of that triad of tyranny.

What I Always Think Is Funny from Chickenman

Episode 23 – Chickenman attempts to give two scoff laws (his grandparents) a parking ticket. How does that go down?


But, in Reality…a bit of Perspective

This blog series was started 53 days ago for one purpose…to provide a brief diversion to people who needed to take a small break from all things COVID-19. It seems to have succeeded for several people – well, okay, at least me…and Clemencia…and the Girls, but then, they are dogs and may not count. It is not intended, however, to distract us from our current reality. God knows there are a few people who work about 20 miles Southwest of me who would like nothing better than to do that.

Throughout this period we need to maintain perspective. I will not lie and say that it has been easy for me to do this. I tip off the rails too like many other people and sometimes it is a bit challenging to right myself. After all, we are in the midst of the worst public health crisis of our lifetime. Many people are dying. As of this moment that number is 76,368 in the United States. More than 325 of those are from the county in which Clemencia and I live. Over 275 of our neighbors in our small zip code have tested positive for COVID-19. Still, all of us have to find a way to move forward with our own lives.

Keeping perspective is something that helps us do this. One helpful perspective is this: we may be alone at home and we are sharing this experience together with many others who are staying at home too – either by choice out of fear or by mandate. Another perspective that we haven’t considered as much is this: we are not alone in history. I was reminded of this recently by something shared with me by my friend Cynthia. I tried to find a source for it but cannot trace it back to its origins. Each place I have found it also credits the author as being unknown and I will do the same here. Even if you have seen this before, it is worth revisiting. It reminds us that those who have come before us, including some of our parents, have “been there, done that,” survived, and we will too.

Imagine you were born in 1900. On your 14th birthday, World War I starts, and ends on your 18th birthday. 22 million people perish in that war.

Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until your 20th birthday. 50 million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 million.

On your 29th birthday, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, the World GDP drops 27%. That runs until you are 33.

The country nearly collapses along with the world economy.

When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren’t even over the hill yet. And don’t try to catch your breath. On your 41st birthday, the United States is fully pulled into WWII. Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war.

At 50, the Korean War starts. 5 million perish.

At 55 the Vietnam War begins and doesn’t end for 20 years. 4 million people perish in that conflict.

On your 62nd birthday you have the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, should have ended. Great leaders prevented that from happening.

When you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends.

Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900. How do you survive all of that?

When you were a kid in 1985 and didn’t think your 85 year old grandparent understood how hard school was. And how mean that kid in your class was. Yet they survived through everything listed above.

Perspective is an amazing art, refined as time goes on, and enlightening like you wouldn’t believe. Let’s try and keep things in perspective.

Author Unkown

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing you hands, keep wearing you mask, and keep prespective.

Tom

Day 35 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

All of the golf courses in Maryland are closed. Philsophically I’m not opposed. I understand. It is for the greater good. Unfortunately for me…and more unfortunately for my neighbors…it means I have to stay in shape by hitting drives from our 4th floor deck.

Sunday, April 19, 2020 – Live to Blog from No Where Near the Golf Course


If I can just manage a full swing, I’m pretty sure I can clear the houses.

Not really…but sometimes I do fantasize about it. We live about a block from a park…a very quiet park…actually, its a cemetery. Clemencia likes to refer to it as a “park” so it doesn’t creep out anyone. But, hey, let’s call it what it is…a cemetery. Still, I’m thinking, I should be able to launch a good drive from the deck that clears the houses between here and the “park.” One thing is for sure…once it clears the houses it probably won’t hit anyone in the “park.”


Reflections on My First Job: Gravedigger

Speaking of cemeteries, my first paying job was as a gravedigger’s assistant in my hometown. My dad happened to be the town’s gravedigger so, yes, there was a bit of nepotism in the work place. Of the various job’s I’ve had over my lifetime, it is the one that tends to turn heads when I mention it.

Elmwood Cemetery – Where I did some of my best grave digging work.

The tools of the trade were short-handled drain spades and digging shovels. Of course we didn’t use the fancy terms. We just referred to the former as a “spade” and the latter as a “shovel.” The spades were actually used for digging the grave while the shovels were used for removing the loose dirt from the floor of the grave.

Once we measured off the width and length of the grave, we’d start digging. The width and length was not the same for every grave. It varied slightly by the size of the vault that was going to be put into the hole. However, the depth was always the same. We would go down four spade lengths, which would be a little more than five feet or at about six feet, depending on whether the spade had a 16 inch blade or an 18 inch blade.

The grave would be dug in layers. The first could be the most difficult because we’d have to cut through the grass and its roots. We’d use a file to sharpen our spade before going to work on the first layer. A sharp blade made it much easier to cut through the grass root system. Iowa has incredibly rich top soil so you knew the grass root system could be formidable.

A bit more ominous view of Elmwood Cemetery. Not quite sure what that light is, but I don’t think I’d want to find out.

Except in winter when it was more than formidable, it was nearly impossible. Iowa winters can be cold and the ground can freeze very hard and deep. Especially in the winter, it would have made a lot of sense to use a backhoe but, as I remember it, the use of a backhoe in my hometown cemetery was not permitted. When it was really, really cold, we’d borrow kerosene heaters to use at the cemetery. We’d set them up over the outline of the grave. Overnight it would usually soften the ground enough to let us at least get a good start. Then we’d keep the heaters running to keep us warm.

Even in the cold though, once you got one spade down, it was normal digging through the next three. I was always fascinated by that. Sometimes it felt so cold that I couldn’t imagine the ground wouldn’t be frozen all the way to the center of the Earth. However, that wasn’t the case.

The toughest part of the digging was as you neared the end. First, you really couldn’t have two people in the hole digging anymore because they would continuously bump into each other. Then you usually began to run into clay, sometimes by the third spade but mostly by the fourth spade down. Also, you had to throw the dirt much higher to get it out of the hole. It got really, really bad if you hit water which sometimes happened.

So, there you have it! Your daily dose of mostly useless information. I hope that it never becomes useful to you.


And Now a COVID-19 Message from the Von Trapp Family

The Adventures of Chickeman – Episode 4

Chickenman (aka Benton Harbor) flies to Minneapolis but stops in at an airliner to ask for directions.


And now, to start off the week right, Some Good News with John Krasinski

You really want to watch the full 16 minutes of this episode. Especially if you are a “Hamilton” fan like Aubrey. Enjoy!


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep clear of Stupid People.

Tom