I love newspaper comic strips. I especially adore the “meta” approach sometimes found in Pearls Before Swine. (Meta, of course, is when something refers back to or is about itself, like a book about books. It's seeing the thing from a higher perspective, like being enjoyably self-aware.) In one recent Pearls strip, Neighbor Bob buries his face in his hands. Sob Sob Sob appears above him. Rat says, “Hey, Neighbor Bob. Are you crying or calling someone a you-know-what?” “Crying,” Bob says. “So hard to tell in comic strips,” Rat comments. This kind of whimsical absurdity transcends the comics.
Monday, June 29, 2020
I love newspaper comic strips. My tastes have changed over the years along with the strips featured. Pearls Before Swine, Dilbert, and Speed Bump all offer wise philosophical commentary disguised as silliness, of course. In a recent strip, Dilbert says, “I can’t tell the difference between good ideas and bad ones. There are smart people on both sides of every idea. What rational process do you use to determine who is right?” To which cynical lay about Wally replies, “I label the people who disagree with me ‘idiots’ and call it a day.” Who doesn’t do that? Guilty as charged.
Tuesday, June 23, 2020
I must hasten to add that in praising the Metro Council’s revolutionary proposed police budget that I am in no way suggesting that it could ever make up for Breonna Taylor’s appalling murder by LMPD. No innocent person should ever have to die because of police violence. Like all decent human beings, I wish it had never happened and I grieve for her loved ones and oppressed people, especially African Americans. But at least now it seems possible that Breonna’s death may have a transformative effect on her city. The revolutionary police budget proposal unveiled today, according to Councilman Pat Mulvihill, is a “paradigm shift,” that would prioritize recruiting a diverse police force that lives in the community and training on using force, de-escalation and implicit bias. If this happens, perhaps such future tragedies can be averted. I fervently hope so.
You would never know it from today’s CJ headline—"Metro Council unwilling to defund police department”—but I believe the council’s proposed police budget is about to revolutionize justice in this community and turn Louisville into an international model for sound policing. Yes, you read that right. Of course, the devil is always in the details. But if you read the details in this story, this conclusion is inescapable. In my opinion, what the council wants to do is incredible, taking the most positive step in our city’s checkered history of criminal injustice. According to the newspaper, “state and federal forfeiture funds would go toward police recruitment, training and exploration of co-responders, like behavioral health specialists, over equipment. It also proposes setting aside more than $750,000 for a civilian oversight system, an independent body to investigate the police department.” It doesn’t end there. “Rather than using the dollars on police equipment or other law enforcement purposes, it would send the roughly $1.2 million to explore ‘deflection,’ the idea of moving people away from the criminal justice system and toward a behavioral health model, which could include assigning co-responders with police. That might look, for instance, like a case manager assigned to respond with police to help people get connected to treatment, housing or other services.” If adopted and implemented faithfully and fully, policing in Louisville will be changed forever for the better. I have never felt prouder or more hopeful of our local leadership than is this moment.
Saturday, June 20, 2020
I loved this moody, uncompromising eight-part miniseries, which is unlike anything else on TV this summer. Reviews have been mixed, with criticism centering on the show’s hazy, improvised story line rather than following a more traditional dramatic structure. Nevertheless, “It was a show with scenes that moved me as much as anything on TV” (Roger Ebert). Filmed in a struggling Paris night club, it was “visually rewarding” (LA Times). The original jazz numbers composed by Glen Ballard are sensational. The music is performed by magnificent vocalist ac and a cast of accomplished musicians, many in their first acting roles.
Friday, June 19, 2020
This is my favorite TV show of the summer. The eight-part miniseries follows André Holland’s struggles to keep his Parisian jazz club afloat during terrible times. The murky plot is complicated further by lines mumbled in English, French, and Arabic. But brilliant musical scenes dominate. They’re filmed “in loving detail,” with “incredible solos and moments when the whole band comes together to form something almost transcendent” (Roger Ebert). To critics who panned it: “Sometimes you have to be careful to avoid criticizing a series for not being what you want it to be, instead of what it is” (LA Times).
Wednesday, June 17, 2020
Had my first (unavoidable) in-store experience since the plague began yesterday and was appalled by the number of people who were blundering around without masks. What is wrong with these people? According to current news accounts, leading U.S. infectious disease experts are warning the coronavirus will continue making life difficult for the foreseeable future. Why? Because so many refuse to take the persistent threat seriously. But the virus is not going to rest, according to the CID director. I sincerely hope no one has to die because of this, but if someone does then I know who deserves the nomination.
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
The 50th anniversary of the Kent State massacre passed with little notice. Now Nixon era echoes are heard as Trump deliberately invokes Tricky Dick’s legacy, tweeting on “law and order” to exploit white backlash for political gain. But Trump isn’t Nixon — he’s much, much worse. Nixon was cynical and ruthless, but also smart and hard-working. Trump spends his days tweeting and watching Fox News. Trump on Covid-19 threat: denial, then frantic efforts to shift the blame to others for his own sham ineffective policies. So, Trump is no Nixon.” (Paul Krugman, NYT). My question: How different is the country Trump’s trying to “dominate?”
Monday, June 15, 2020
The upcoming presidential election “continues to be largely a referendum on the incumbent. The initial reaction to ongoing racial unrest in the country suggests that most voters feel Trump is not handling the situation all that well” -- Monmouth U. poll. George Floyd’s death has made Americans more pessimistic about the state of race relations. 61% say race relations in the USA are “generally bad” while 57% of Republicans believe race relations are generally “good.” --CBS News survey. Monmouth says if the fall election, still five months away, were held now, Biden wins over Trump by 56% to 41%.
Sunday, June 14, 2020
“President Donald Trump is now one of only three presidents to be impeached, and the only one impeached in his first term. Why Trump? On Inauguration Day, he had already confessed to grabbing women’s genitalia, stoked bigotry against Mexicans and Muslims, encouraged fans to “knock the crap” out of protesters, bilked Americans with his fraudulent “Trump University,” mocked a disabled reporter and lied in a way that appeared pathological. Now Americans are unhappy with Trump’s response to George Floyd’s death, his handling of ensuing protests, and his handling of race relations in general, according to four polls released this week.
Saturday, June 13, 2020
“Trump has never lived the life he deserved. In the 1970s, the Justice Department sued him for refusing to rent apartments to African Americans. Still, he became a billionaire real estate developer. He bragged about sexually assaulting women, reduced presidential politics to name-calling, and invited a foreign adversary to hack his 2016 rival’s emails. Still, he was elected president. He stocked his administration with crooks and cronies, used the presidency to further his financial interests, bribed a foreign ally for personal gain and hired a morally bankrupt attorney general. Still, he has good odds of winning reelection.”
Friday, June 12, 2020
There’s been enough international success dealing with the plague to leave a clear sense of how to beat it: impose strict social distancing long enough to reduce those infected to small fraction of population. Then test, trace, and isolate--quickly identifying outbreaks, finding and quarantining everyone exposed until danger passes. It worked in South Korea and New Zealand, but must be strict and patient, staying the course, not giving in to temptation to return to normal life with virus still widespread. Alas, America’s impatience and unwillingness to do so runs much deeper than any one man.—Paul Krugman, NY Times
Thursday, June 11, 2020
“Just because it was historical, I don’t treat the characters as any different from characters in a contemporary setting. That’s important or it will feel stilted rather than real and naturalistic. These characters aren’t aware they are living in history, to them it is what their life is. Walking around with ironware and swords was the norm for them, they are living in the now. And they were very similar to us in terms of love, friendships, relationships, laughter. Humor is really important to me. It brings you into their world.” --Writer Stephen Butchard, “The Last Kingdom” (seasons 1-3).
Wednesday, June 10, 2020
One definition of insanity: keep doing the same thing while expecting a different outcome. How’s this for crazy? Four in five registered voters in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll feel “things in the country are out of control” as the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic approaches 110,000, unemployment remains at a level not seen since the Great Depression and protests continue across the U.S. Just 15% of voters think matters in the USA are under control. The sense of chaos and economic pessimism did not have much effect on the job approval rating for President Donald Trump.
“It’s the characters who make it relatable…. If people can’t buy into the characters, then it just becomes a series of events. I always use the example of a car chase – if you don’t care about the people in the car then it means nothing. You only care about the outcome if you care about the people.” --Stephen Butchard, screenwriter (“The Last Kingdom” seasons 1-3). Incidentally, when Martha Hillier replaced Butchard for season 4, plotting suffered and Uhtred became impulsive rather than brilliant. Another factor: Netflix took over production from the BBC and Carnival Films (“Downton Abbey”) season 4.
Tuesday, June 9, 2020
England remains a seafaring nation and loves its nautical traditions. I, too, love the great seafaring historical novels by C.S. Forester, Patrick O’Brian, and Bernard Cornwell (50 or so novels altogether). “The Last Kingdom” author says his own ancestral roots gave him the idea for Uhtred, the half-Dane warrior who helps King Alfred unite Britain. Cornwell grew up loving Forester’s Napoleonic War novels featuring Horatio Hornblower, and later revered the Jack Aubrey-Stephen Maturin series. Forester inspired Cornwell to write his own series about the Napoleonic wars, only on land, featuring fictional rifleman Richard Sharp. Sometimes, inspiration is easy to track.
Monday, June 8, 2020
Internet down, no classic rock tv channel to watch while working out, so I switch on FM radio--a country music station sans commercials. One song writer says he’s no good at anything else, but he sure is good at drinking beer. Brad Paisley supposedly laments the plague with the refrain, “There ain’t no ‘I’ in beer.” He mentions the beer by name. Bud Lite. Is he being paid to? That’s not even an American beer anymore. I like beer and Willie Nelson, too. But ye gods, is this really what passes for clever lyrics down in Nashville these days?
100 Words: Kentucky’s Shame
The Emmett Till Antilynching Act passes the U.S. House 410-4 (with Ky. Rep. Thomas Massie in opposition). Now Ky. Sen. Rand Paul ties up the federal antilynching bill for the flimsiest of reasons. “I will be excoriated by simpleminded people on the internet,” Paul says. Possibly by some not so simpleminded, as well, Rand. Newspaper columnist Joe Gerth calls Paul a laughingstock for preventing the lynching of an African American from becoming a hate crime. He’s right, but it’s worse. Paul, Massie, and Ky. Senate czar Mitch McConnell (“Medicare for All will never happen on my watch!”) shame all Kentuckians.
Sunday, June 7, 2020
Recently a NYTimes writer recalled Robert F. Kennedy’s speech announcing the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I watched the video and found that
RFK’s speech remains as tremendously moving and powerful today as it did the first time I heard it on TV back in 1968. Not hatred, division, and violence but love, wisdom, and unity. Yes, it would be wonderful. Perhaps even possible, if we had such a person in the White House today. Of course, we don’t. But there’s a remedy for that in November and at the moment Trump is falling, falling in the polls.
Saturday, June 6, 2020
100 Words: Pouring Gas On The FireThe U.S. faces three intertwined crises: the pandemic that has claimed over 100,000 lives; the resulting economic crisis leaving over 40 million unemployed; and now the policing crisis that has triggered the largest wave of urban unrest since the late 1960s. Each disaster disproportionately harms people of color. Each feeds off the other. The pandemic spawned the economic free fall, and mass protests over the death of George Floyd a week ago in Minneapolis are likely to accelerate the pandemic. Exceptional leadership is needed but will not come from Donald Trump who pours more gasoline on the fire (USA Today).
Thursday, June 4, 2020
In 1968, Nixon handily mobilized law-and-order sentiment against urban disorder by pinning all the insurgencies, troubles and miseries on Democratic leadership. In 2020, no one but Trump leads the dominant political party. He runs against conditions that he himself has wrought. He has to run against himself (USA Today). The outcome is getting more likely by the day. Trump trails Biden by 10 points (53-43) in the latest polls. His response: Justice Dept. wants to suspend civil liberties during pandemic and “other emergencies,” including indefinitely holding people without trial (Politico). If Trump anticipates losing, will he suspend the fall election?
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
She has no idea who he is. She points at his book and asks, ‘How do you like that book?’ He says it’s fantastic. She says, ‘It’s on my list to read and I saw you bring it onboard and I just wanted to talk to you. …’ And then she starts to cry. He tells her that the book talks about how white people are horrible at talking about racism and that what we need are real conversations. She agrees. He tells her he is trying to learn and through tears and a mask, she says, ‘So am I.’”