Category - Digest

“Hamilton” – and Slavery:
I Made a YouTube

If you don’t wanna read all the verbiage, I’ll put the video here at the top:

Here’s a direct link if you’d rather open it in the YouTube app or a browser:

OK, Two things:

I suppose by now everybody who wants to has seen the Original Broadway Cast recording (not film!) of Hamilton – the musical sensation where a multi-ethnic cast (only George III is portrayed by a Caucasian actor) sings and dances their way through the classic (i.e. white-man’s version) tale of America’s Founding.

I’ve watched through the whole thing twice already, and various fragments of it as well and honestly… I think it’s pretty fucking fantastic.

I (finally!) managed to see the stage rendition last December when one or the ‘bus and truck’ road shows (finally!) found its way to Tennessee Performing Arts Center (aka TPAC) in Nashville.  And I thought it was pretty fucking fantastic then, too.

So, I will admit to being a bit of a Hamilhead – though perhaps not as much as the fellow I watched it with on the 4th of July who has seen it on stage like half a dozen times.  I considered myself quite fortunate to have seen it the once.

Anywhoo…. Hamilton was the First Thing.

The Second thing was… this ongoing discussion (via video conferences) that we’ve been having at my job about the whole #BlackLivesMatter moment and the necessary conversation the country has been having about the systemic racism which has been part of the American Story since…. well, since 1619, if you wanna be precise.

As part of that discussion, I volunteered for a “History subcommittee” that was assigned to come up with presentations to the rest of the staff about… well, whatever we wanted to dig into.

And since this discussion was all happening around the video release of Hamilton… I got the bright idea to do a (semi) deep-dive into the role (black) slavery played in the lives of all the (white) characters who are featured in the musical.

Open rabbit hole… fall in.

This turned into about 6 days of pretty much non-stop work: researching all the Founders portrayed in the musical (thank you, Internets), and then distilling what I learned into a Keynote presentation. Which also meant getting somewhat skilled with Keynote (Apple’s version of PowerPoint) and putting all my Photoshop chops to the test as well.

What was supposed to be maybe 10 minutes morphed into more than 20 minutes worth of material, and I finished the first complete top-to-bottom run through last Saturday – about 15 minutes before presenting it to a Webex with 100+ people tuned in. It was very warmly received and several people asked me to make it a video and put it on the YouTube.

Which meant another two days of fine-tuning; In addition to sorting out the vagaries of the Keynote  application, I have also been grinding my way through a program called Logic to learn audio editing, which I decided to do to grab some clips from the actual show. And then I had to figure out how to put it all together in iMovie so that I could upload it all to YouTube.

It’s a 24 minute production that took me about 60 hours total to compile -basically the most actual “work” I’ve done in all the time I’ve been #HomeAlone.  I guess it was about time I did something useful.

That’s all you need to know about what this is and how it got here.  I’ll drop it the embed in here again so that if you’ve read this far you don’t need to scroll back to the top.

Thanks for watching.  Leave your comments on the YouTube page.

 

#HomeAlone Day 105
A Trip to The Dentist

Notes from the Urban Dystopia:

My dentist is in the L&C Tower at 4th & Church, so I went downtown yesterday for the first time in four months. It was truly exciting to be able to put the top down on a beautiful summer day and have an actual place to go.

Once I got off the Interstate… “eerie” doesn’t begin to describe it.

I started to wonder where I was when I turned eastward onto Charlotte Pike and there was not another car in either direction for blocks. I passed a demonstration at Legislative Plaza where somebody was barking something through a bullhorn about the State Police stealing citizens property (hadn’t heard that protest before). I found a place to park right at the entrance to the garage (no circling around floor after floor looking for the one empty space).

The street was basically empty of pedestrians, though I was surprised/pleased to see that even outdoors most were wearing masks.

The lobby of the L&C tower was empty, with social distance markers spaced along the floor leading to the bank of empty elevators. I rode 9 floors to the dentist’s office alone in the elevator.

In the office, the waiting room was empty; The two women behind the desk were wearing masks. I was greeted by a masked young man who pointed a thermometer at my forehead and handed me a Covid Questionaire: “do you have a dry cough? fever? chills? headaches? fatigue?” After checking several boxes “no” I asked “are there any trick questions here or can I just mark them all ‘no’?” I handed the clipboard back and immediately went to the rest room and washed my hands.

The rest of the visit was like all the visits before. Hooray for nitrous – the only buzz I get after 32 years without a sip, a sniff, or a puff. The hygienist agreed with me that, despite all those awkward, adolescent years with braces, my front-lower teeth are “a mess.” She scraped away as best she could. My teeth are clean now. Mission accomplished, now back to solitary…

I drove down 4th Ave to Broadway, past several of the honky-tonks. More eeriness: the streets were empty, though here the few tourists I did see were less enmasked. What was weird was to hear country hits and standards blaring out of the clubs, and look inside to see them mostly empty. The sound echoed around the street in ways I’d never heard before.

Re-reading this before posting it, I realize the most-used word is “empty.”

Surprisingly, there are still scooters parked on the street, but it doesn’t appear that anybody body is using them. I’m surprised that’s still a thing.

Today in #TMITM
And The Truth is Finally Breaking Through

The revolution may or may not be “televised” – but it is definitely being “packet-switched*.

I see a video like this and I think: oh good, the truth is finally breaking through.

Tulsa? Rosewood? Never heard about that on ABNBCBS, did ya?

This is what’s different between now and, say, 1968 – the last time convulsive dissonance tore a hole in the fabric of our cultural universe.

In the 60s, the media environment was dominated by three primary channels. Even when The Whole World WAS Watching, the message was homogenized and filtered through those three channels. Three points of origin transmitted that carefully pasteurized message to an infinite number of points of reception. Yeah, the police are rioting, and clubbing kids in the street, but… Laugh In! Mary Tyler Moore! Power structure intact!

This is what’s different now: The internet has produced a world of channel parity. Every point of origin is a point of reception. Every citizen has their own channel.

And the truth is finally breaking through.

We are all transmitters and receivers. And when a man gets murdered on the street in broad daylight, there is always somebody there to record it. As Will Smith said: “Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed.” Because we have all these gizmos in our pockets, there is no longer any corporate or political force that can control the narrative.

And finally, the truth is breaking through.

Kimberly Jones lets us in here on the Dirty Little Secret: The system IS NOT broken, it is working precisely the way it was designed to work. The forces that we were taught are here to protect us are actually protecting the now obsolete narrative

We are all Kimberly Jones now.

And the truth is finally breaking through.

I use the hashtag that begins this post a lot. #TMITM = “The Medium Is the Message.” When he coined that expression in 1964 Marshall McLuhan explained: “Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.”

In other words, it is not until the media environment changes that new content can be delivered. The printed Bible fostered the Reformation; newspapers fostered republican democracy; first radio and then television reorganized society around broadcasting towers. The advent of the Internet reversed those trends toward ever larger audiences. Everybody is a transmitter, everybody is a receiver.

After a decade of smartphones, the truth is finally breaking through.

When I first got on “the Internet” in 1993, with McLuhan’s maxim in mind, I wanted to believe that this fundamental change in our media environment would ultimately foster a fundamental change in the way our society functions. The advent of the Internet fed whatever idealism was left over of my sensibilities from the 1960s.

I have despaired over past decade, as I have watched ‘social media’ poison the world’s discourse and flood it with disinformation and crazy talk and unleash a whole world of stupid. Even as the movement of the past few weeks erupted. I’d lost hope that the promise I thought I saw 30 years ago had foundered.

Kimberly Jones has restored my hope. This video is by orders of magnitude the most information-packed three minutes you will see this week, this month, this year.

It has taken almost 30 years since my first packets of hope were delivered, but the truth is finally breaking through.
– – – –

H/T Heather Larkin Vogler

– – –
*”packet switching” is the fundamental technology that made the Internet possible. When you Google those keywords, the result will be delivered in “packets.” You could…umm… Google it.

 

#HomeAlone Day 84
Uh, Houston? We Have…. A Kitten

Every year, around the middle of March, as the cold and dreary of winter wears on, I will say of the season, “Winter: it goes on until you can’t take it any more – and then it goes on a while longer.”

The same can now be said of the spring of 2020.

And quite possibly the summer.

Maybe the whole fucking year.

It can likewise be said of the past 5 years, when speaking of the descent that started with that ride down the escalator that has no bottom floor. 5 years later, new bottom after new bottom, and still we descend…

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln….

I really have no reason to complain (but I’m Jewish, why should that stop me?) as I have been comfortably ensconced out here in West Bumfuque for the past nearly three months. My cupboards and freezer are filled with provisions, and “essential workers” have made the trek out here each week to drop off more.

It gets pretty damn lonesome at times, but I figure I am better off this way than if my ex was still around. I am grateful that all resolved itself well before I had to lockdown, otherwise the operative hashtag would be #MurderSuicide instead of #HomeAlone.

I wish I had more to show for all this time I have had to myself. I have ventured furtively into various creative endeavors, but let’s just say “the input exceeds the output.”

My attempt at an audio/video recording space. If only I sounded half as good as it looks…

I set up the ‘studio’ in the back of house – the space with the big picture window that I cleared of all but a mediation cushion once I had the house to myself  – to attempt some audio and video recording, but the first attempts at actually recording something sounded so bad that I have not tried again for a week or so.

I have not really been writing much. I lament that most of my verbal energy gets dissipated into Facebook posts and comments. Facebook has become my go-to distraction and frustration. On the one hand, it offers the illusion of some kind of contact with other humans. On the other hand, the conceit of keeping an open mind and peering outside my own bubble opens the window on a stream of crazy nonsense that melts my brain.

The back roads less traveled aka my typical top-down joyride routes – Old Charlotte, Pond Creek, River Road and back again.

I really didn’t leave the house for about two months, except for #LifeIsBetterWithTheTopDown joy rides along the back roads between here and Ashland City most afternoons. This has been the season for a convertible, and I have not let it pass without making the best of it, nearly every day.

As for writing… heh.

I’ve written a couple of accounts of my life in isolation, that, again, mostly got posted to Facebook. But I also made some notes about my visit to the doctor last month for my annual physical, posted to my website in two parts here and here.

I have been missing my job at the Apple store. The store closed on March 14. The good news is that Apple has so much cash (like $2-million-per-employee!) – and continuing revenue through online sales – that they haven’t laid anybody off. We’re all still on the payroll. I had a personal experience there that has transformed how I feel about that job and the company:

As the Coronavirus Panic reached its first crest of frenzy in mid-March, I started to worry about the risk for my age bracket relative to the rest of the personnel I work with (many of whom are literally a third of my age). I called the store on Friday March 13 and expressed my anxiety, telling a couple of mid-level managers that while on the one hand I didn’t want to ask for any special dispensation, on the other hand… I’m old and 3-to-5 times as likely to die if I get the Covid. A couple of hours later the Lead Manager called back and said “we’ll take you off the schedule and make sure you get paid.”

That moment brought me almost to tears. No, wait… actually… it did bring me to tears, to the extent that this emotionally-arrested old man is capable of them.

The next day they announced that the store would close indefinitely and offered a similar arrangement for all personnel. But I felt like the universe had singled me out in a way that I felt like somebody had my back – as my therapist pointed out – maybe the first time in my life.

And then I settled into my confinement. They have tried to keep us busy with online training and video conferencing – just more glass and silicon and mostly looking at my own disembodied image on the screen.

In preparation for what remains an unscheduled reopening, I actually went in to the store for the first time on Tuesday for several hours of “socially distanced retail training.” I wish I could say it was anything other than just fucking weird. It was great to be in the presence of other actual humans again but of course we were all visible only from the eyes up. And seeing people for the first time in months but… no hugs, no physical contact of any kind. Wearing a mask and trying to communicate through it… not fun. Also very itchy with the beard. And, of course… don’t touch your face…

“The Pile” – my father was a prolific letter writer; my mother saved them all.

The other thing I have done in the past couple of weeks is return to what I am now calling “The Pile” of letters that my parents exchanged with each other in the year between their meeting and their marriage in 1943. I have been reading the letters and dictating them into a digital document. I don’t know what I will do with this stuff. I have reached the point now where I feel like I just need to stay with “the work” such as it is and eventually something will manifest. I have been circling the idea of weaving my own memoir (remember the 1969 stuff?) with some of this material. I just don’t know yet.

As I’ve been dictating/transcribing these letters into a Scrivener doc, I’ve stored some on Dropbox so my sister in Connecticut can read them. Here’s one from Harvey, and here’s one from Ellen. I’m pretty sure there’s a story in there somewhere…

It’s not quite so lonely out here for the past two weeks… as some of you know (via Facebook), I got a kitten… Her name is “Buster” (she was gender-confused when she first arrived) and she’s about 8 weeks old.  I’ve posted pictures of her on Facebook almost every day over the past two weeks.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln….

#Home Alone Day 63
To Doc or Not To Doc Part 2:
You Can’t Get There From Here

(continued from here)

As I suspected, the hard part was just getting to the clinic from the parking garage. 

The elevators, they’re easy to find, they are centrally located in a red-walled glass box in the center of the garage.  But the stairs?  Good fucking luck. 

The parking lot was fuller than I thought it might be, but I was pleased that everybody I saw was wearing a mask.  

After I’d parked the car, I searched for a stairwell  in what amounted  to wandering around in a dark concrete maze. I saw a couple of gentlemen in scrubs (and masks!) conversing near the entrance to the elevator lobby, so I approached, and from a socially safe distance asked,

“Do either of you gentleman know where I can find the stairs up to the Frist Clinic.” 

“The stairs are locked,” the gentleman in the navy blue scrubs muffled to me through his mask.

I took this news rather incredulously.  “The stairs are locked?” 

“Yeah,” Mr. Scrubs repeated, “on account the virus.  The elevator is the only way up…”

Let me see if I’ve got this straight:  Because there is an infectious virus a-loose in the land, the only way to get to the doctor is by getting into a small enclosed chamber with a bunch of strangers?

One of the more vocal members of the Committee Inside My Head said something like “if that’s true, that’s the dumbest fucking thing you’re going to hear all day.”  I’m not sure, but those words may have gotten through before the committee member that holds my tongue could stop them. 

It wasn’t easy, given the labyrinthine nature of this particular parking garage, but I managed to find the vehicular entrance/exit, thinking I’d just go out on the street and find the entrance to the building that way.  But the way these buildings are arranged around Centennial, I couldn’t even find the entrance to the building I was trying to get in to.   

I went back into the garage, and after a little bit more dialog with Mr. Scrubs, resisted the Covid Wheel of Anxiety -induced urge to just get back in my car and go home.  I resigned myself to getting on an elevator in order to proceed with my mission: to risk my life in order to get a clean bill of health.  #IronyAbounds

Not so fast…

I wanted to wait for an empty elevator.  Two people with masks got into the first car that opened, and I figured “what the hell…” and got in with them.  But before the doors could shut… another woman got in.  She was not wearing a mask.  I got out. 

The next car that opened, there was just one other guy – with a mask –  waiting to get on, so I took my chances with him.  

I put on a rubber glove and pressed the “4” button.  #ParanoidMuch? 

The door closed before anybody else could get in.  In the few seconds available, to us, we exchanged our mutual surprise that there was no stairwell access to the building.  He got off in the lobby and again, mercifully, nobody else got on.   30 seconds later I had finally reached my desired destination.  

I’m sorry I didn’t think to grab a photo of the lobby of the Frist Clinic. It’s usually a pretty bustling place, but this time it was nearly empty.  Most of the seating had been removed, and what remained was all socially-distanced apart.  There were signs saying everybody had to wear a mask, and a Miranda-like warming that “if you don’t have a mask, one will be provided for you…” 

I waited a safe distance from the counter for my turn to check in.  The receptionist asked me for my Insurance card, and I made a mental note to thank Apple for keeping me employed and insured while so many millions of people are losing not only their jobs but also their health insurance – at a time when they are really going to need it.  Note to America: this is fucking stupid. 

After a short wait the nurse invited me in. 

“How are you?” she asked dutifully.

“Right this moment… I’m pretty agitated!” I replied, launching into a concise summary of the Ordeal of My Arrival and repeating the profane conclusion that the  Committee Inside My Head had arrived at earlier.

Then she sat me down,  took my blood pressure – and rattled off a number that didn’t sound right. 

“Is that good?” I asked, sensing some alarm. 

“No.” was all she said.  

She left me in the room to wait for the doctor while I wondered if being forced  to ride an elevator could actually elevate one’s blood pressure.  

Dr. Louis Johnson at the Frist Clinic, who has been my Primary Care Provider for the entire time I’ve lived in Nashville. Another, like my barber and my housekeeper, who have been around longer than my (now ex-) wife.

Eventually the doctor arrived and I told him the story of the limited choice of conveyance. He was surprised that somebody had told me the stairs were inaccessible.  We talked a little about the Strange Times we’re living in, and the exam commenced.  

I’ll spare you the sordid details of the ensuing poking and prodding.  The highlight for me may have been the discussion around my weight.  He didn’t say anything, but I did express my concern that I have add a few lbs from “sitting on my ass for the past two months.”  

“Yes,” he said, “that’s been a concern for a lot of people.” 

“Yeah, that’s what happens when the grocery store has run out of chicken but you can get all the Oreos you want…”

When the exam was over, the doc took me out into the hallway and showed me an exit to the stairs. “That’ll take you right down to the parking lot.” 

Before I left, he took my blood pressure one more time. 

“Normal,” was all he said.  

Whew. 

So, yeah… riding an elevator in the spring of 2020 is definitely not good for your health. 

Of course we won’t really know the full impact of this penetration into the Infection Zone for another 12-14 days so… y’all standby!

#HomeAlone Day 63:
To Doc or Not To Doc?

After much perseveration, I have decided to go to the doctor for my annual physical today.

Like every thing else over the past two months, the decision hasn’t come easily.

So far as I know, my health is good. Despite my advancing age (a “7-handle in November!), the only health issues I have are blood pressure and A1C that have hovered near the “you might have to do something about that” levels in recent years. The last time I did the blood work, all the numbers were fine and the doc said “just keep doing what you’ve been doing.” That was a couple of months after the divorce was finalized. Go figger.

This is a non-essential excursion into a potentially risky environment. The nurses I spoke to at the Frist Clinic assure me that they are taking all the necessary precautions: everybody in the clinic must wear a mask and observe social distancing. And there was one point during the conversation when I realized: the nurses and the doctors and staff at the clinic are going to work every day – and they’re not dead yet…

Once I’d decided it was probably (?!?) safe, The Great Wheel of Covid Anxiety starts turning again: How do I get from the parking garage to the clinic? Sure, once in the clinic, all the guidelines are being practiced, but I usually ride an elevator to the clinic on the 4th floor. What is the likelihood that everybody on the elevator will be wearing a mask? From what I read, not very likely. I can just imagine: one cough from somebody on an elevator and dial up the body bag.

It’s not helping to turn on the TeeVee or read something on the newspad (do they still make newspapers?) that singles out Nashville as one of the newest hotspots in the nation and wonder all over again, “why risk it?”

There seem to be two factors driving the Covid Anxiety Wheel: On the one hand, it only makes sense to be cautious. On the other hand, at what point do you realize that your life is being ruled by fear? At what point do you have to listen to the third voice in your head (it’s quite a committee…) that says “feel the fear and do it any way”? (H/T Julie).

Anyway I’ve made my decision.

Like Luke finding the exhaust port on the Death Star, “I’m going in…”

I just hope I can find the stairs. And I am grateful-sweet-jesus that I have the strength to climb them…

#HomeAlone Day 55

We keep hearing the phrase “these uncertain times,” but it is not that the times are uncertain so much as the quality of time itself has changed.

It is May and there is no baseball.

To fill that seasonal void, I’ve been reading Phllip Roth’s “The Great American Novel” – which is a sordid satire about baseball (what else could a Great American Novel be about?).

Most of the story takes place during World War II; There is a passage where one of the team owners explains to a player that what is really at stake has less to do with Hitler than the looming threat Stalinist Communism:

 

Even as this war rages on against the Germans and the Japs, the other war against us has already begun, the invisible war, the silent assault upon the very fabric that holds us together as a nation…

In order to destroy America, the Communists in Russia and their agents around the world are going to attempt to destroy the major leagues…

When baseball goes, Roland, you can kiss America goodbye. Try to imagine it, Roland, an American summer Sunday without doubleheaders, an American October without the World Series, March in America without spring training. No, they can call it America, but it’ll be something very different then. Roland, once the Communists have made a joke of the majors, the rest will fall like so many dominoes.

 

The “invisible war”? The “silent assault”?

Who knew Coronavirus is a Communist??

#ColdWarOver #CommiesWin

photo credit: The Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles played a game in an empty ballpark in 2015. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

#HomeAlone Day 49 = Seven Weeks

49 days. That’s seven weeks.

Seven weeks of FaceTime, Zoom and Webex.

The last time I did anything in the actual world was March 12, when I went to McCabe Pub in Sylvan Park for my weekly cheeseburger – something I’d been doing for more than twenty years. I hope that tradition can resume one of these days, but I imagine it will be weird with only three or four people at the bar, spaced two or three bar stools apart. Will I need to make a reservation? How do you eat a cheeseburger through a mask?

I’d started using a grocery delivery service a couple of months before “stay home!” started; I’ve continued that routine, getting delivery once a week and leaving a generous cash tip taped to the front door for the shopper. Those people are my heroes. Their efforts provide a weekly reminder just how upside down our culture and economy are.

Several times a week, when the weather is nice and the sun is shining, I’ve indulged myself with #TopDown joy rides over the back roads out here in West Bumfuque. That has necessitated several trips to the Shell station in Pegram; I gas up the car with a rubber glove on one hand. I made one trip to another service station to swap out my propane tank and two trips to the post office to drop off stuff I’d sold on eBay. That is the full extent of my outside-the-house commerce. Amazon/UPS delivers everything else.

Every morning I get out of bed, put on my sneakers and go for a two-mile walk trough my neighborhood. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I have all the conspiracy theories sorted out, and I almost understand what is happening in WestWorld. Thomas Jefferson is still dead but Clay Jenkinson lives! Most days I take another walk in the late afternoon, then I sit on the back deck and read a book, watch the hummingbirds – and remind myself repeatedly how fortunate I am. Despite it all…. #gratitude.

In seven weeks, the only other humans I have seen are the neighbors I encounter on my walks. We stand on opposite sides of the street and exchange pleasantries. Their dogs are the only living creatures I have touched. I regret not getting a kitten when I was thinking about it last year. The animal shelter not far from here has been closed.

The only people who have been to my house are my housekeeper who comes every other Tuesday, a plumber and the HVAC guy. Otherwise, all my “human interactions” (including two ‘virtual dinner dates’) have been mediated by screens, electrons, and digits. Thank you all for setting your camera in “landscape” mode and minimizing the backlight.

Speaking of dating: I did a bit of that in the months that followed my divorce last year, but was informed / reminded numerous times that: divorced less than a year, I was essentially radioactive. Late last year I decided to go into hibernation and wait for the year to end. The year ended in January and then…. oh boy, more hibernation.

It has been seven weeks since I’ve gone to my job, which keeps me on my feet – and burning calories – for eight hours several days a week. I know I am among the fortunate ones to work for such a large company that I have stayed employed and paid even though I have not really been working; the company has kept us engaged with video conferences and online training. They’re doing their level-best to get us ready for reopening, though it is quite uncertain when that will be or it will look like. In the meantime, I look forward to those video-interactions with my co-workers (aka “the kids”).

So it was no surprise when I stepped on the scale this morning and learned that in seven weeks I have gained six pounds.

It has been seven weeks since I’ve have had a hug; seven weeks since I’ve had any physical contact with another human being.

If I can’t touch anybody or anything, I’m starting to wonder why I even need a physical body.

And then I remember: my body a transportation device.

It transports my mouth to the refrigerator.