Friday, December 23, 2016

A Christmas Miracle

I published this post eight years ago, and again one year ago, and it feels right to do it  again:

My grandfather passed away two months ago.  

I have wanted to write a post about him ever since, and there are a thousand things I want to say in that post, yet it remains unwritten for one very unmovable reason:  I have no idea where or how to start saying those thousand things.  When a man lives 81 years, has 39 direct descendants, and impacts not only his family but countless other people as well, how can you sum up his life in a handful of paragraphs?  You can’t. 

But I do not have that problem when it comes to writing about Granddaddy and Christmas, after the way they converged three years ago. 

Granddaddy’s love of God, family, and country; his zeal when talking about those things to anybody with whom he came into contact; his faith in the perfectibility of man; his irrepressible Scotch-Irish mischief; his unsurpassed diligence in everything to which he set his mind or his hands – those qualities will all be written about in time, but for the purposes of this post, suffice it to say that in the last few years of his life they were cruelly stolen by Alzheimer’s disease. 

His mental sharpness started to dull about five years ago.  In 2005 his memory faded as well, and the fading was fast.  He carried on conversations with Nana without realizing it was her.  Remembering how she looked in their youth but not in the here and now, he said things like “I wonder when Peggy’s going to come home” while looking into her very eyes. 

When he and Nana arrived at our family’s 2005 Christmas Eve party, nobody expected to be recognized by him.  Because I did not want to confuse him by addressing him in a way that would suggest he was speaking to his grandson, and because I knew his recollections of battling the Nazis remained vivid, that night I simply called him “Corporal.” 

He asked if I was in the Army like he had been, and I told him I was not because of my diabetes. I told him that we nonetheless had some similarities, because just like him, my last name was Stanton and my blood carried Scotch-Irish genes.  He nodded and said it was good to meet me.  He said I should come around again sometime. 

Everyone at the party walked a tightrope, balancing holiday cheer on one hand with the sadness of loss on the other.  The man we loved, who had known each of us by name just a year earlier, had for all intents and purposes ceased to exist. 

But as the night started to grow long, something sparked inside Granddaddy’s mind.  When most of us were assembled in and around the kitchen, he “addressed the room” and said it was great that we were there.  He did not specifically acknowledge that we were all family; however, when he looked at my Aunt Sharon, the third of his five children, a glint appeared in his eyes and he spoke the word “daughter.” 

He and Nana stood on the driveway as the party wound down.  I stood there too, as did several others, hoping to give Nana some sense of normalcy.  But it turned out that our presence was not needed, for while Venus shone brightly like the Star of Bethlehem, Granddaddy came back as if by magic.  Looking up at the Milky Way, he spoke to Nana by name and said:  “Peggy, I’m trying to remember the night we got married.”  Some minutes later, when he said goodbye to each of us, his face bore a look of recognition and for that moment it no longer seemed that there was a stranger trapped in his body. 

As his wife of 59 years drove him back to the house they had called home for 53 years, they talked about their life and their family and it was as if the dementia had never been.  After finishing that 45-mile excursion from rural Hernando County to urban Tampa, they sat up late into the night conversing and reminiscing and sharing life’s small but inimitable joys.  They lay down in bed like they had done so many times through the years, and for that one holy night Granddaddy was Granddaddy again:  John Stanton, Jr., child of the Great Depression, survivor of the Battle of the Bulge, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, pastor, proud but humble, flawed but good.

When the sun rose, the dementia was back and my grandmother's husband, as she knew him, never returned.  But they had gotten that one last night together on Christmas Eve, and had gotten it after everyone assumed it was not possible.  As Nana said:  “That was my Christmas miracle.”

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sounds of the season (both good and bad)

Christmas wouldn't be the same without Christmas music. Religious hymns, secular carols, bouncy kid's songs, fast tunes, slow tunes -- they all fill a role in enhancing our enjoyment of the season.

I know most people don't give a hoot what I think about Christmas music, but I'm going to tell you anyway. Below are my thoughts regarding my favorite versions of three of my favorite religious Christmas songs, and three of my favorite secular Christmas songs -- plus, my thoughts regarding three of my least favorite.

Fyi, I don't like using the word "secular" in this context because many people attach a negative connotation to it where Christmas is concerned. But in my opinion, it's possible to capture the spirit of the season without referencing God or the nativity. Anyway, here I go:


"O Holy Night," Nat King Cole
Though this song was not played very much when I was a kid, it has become ubiquitous over the last 20 years as one big-voiced singer after another, from Michael Crawford to Celine Dion to Josh Groban, has recorded it and received major air time on North American radio stations.

But none of their versions holds a candle to the one recorded by Nat King Cole in 1960. His subtly rich, expertly deployed voice gives you goosebumps as he performs the soaring lyrics and makes you feel like you really are a shepherd watching your flock on that night two millennia ago. The background of the song, combined with the fact that Cole was singing it at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, adds an extra layer of significance.

In the 1840's a French priest asked a local wine merchant named Placide Cappeau to pen a Christmas poem. Cappeau delivered with a poem that has been variously titled "Minuit, chretiens" and "Cantique de Noel." A few years later the composer Adolphe Charles Adams set it to music, creating the heart of the hymn we know today, and I think it's worth nothing that Adams was Jewish.

A few years after that, a little-known American writer and abolitionist named John Sullivan Dwight translated the Cappeau/Adams hymn to English and brought it to our shores as "O Holy Night." During the Civil War it became popular in Union states because of a particular verse that is sometimes excluded from modern renditions: "Truly He taught us to love one another / His law is love and His gospel is peace / chains shall He break / for the slave is our brother / and in His name all oppression shall cease."

"Do You Hear What I Hear?," The Carpenters
When it comes to Karen and Richard Carpenter, mock them all you want for the vein-clogging sappiness of their pop songs. They deserve it. But the fact of the matter is that Karen's voice was resonant and she owned the middle octaves, singing them better than anyone else who achieved pop stardom in the 1970's. My heart thumps when I listen to her arching vocals on their 1978 rendition of this song, complemented by Richard's wonderfully executed accompaniment. On a side note, this song is surprisingly recent, having been written during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," The Carpenters
I have written about this one before, and rather than recount the whole story behind it again, I will simply refer you to that post. If you don't want to go to the link, I don't blame you -- so I'll give you the abridged version by saying that the words were penned by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, as a poem during the Civil War, and subsequently set to music by John Baptiste Calkin.

Sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it? So does this: The best singing of "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" was done by Karen Carpenter in 1978.


"Happy Holidays," Andy Williams
It's not Christmas until you hear this on the radio. In fact, in almost every single year, it happens to be the very first Christmas song I hear on the radio... He'll have a big fat pack upon his back / and lots of goodies for you and for me / so leave a peppermint stick for old Saint Nick / hangin' on the Christmas tree... Rat Packer Andy Williams belts it out so good that I don't even known if anyone else has released a single of "Happy Holdiays" -- but I do know there's no point in anyone else doing so!

"Sleigh Ride," Freddy Martin and His Orchestra
It was 65 years ago that Freddy Martin made this recording and 30 years ago that I heard it for the first time -- on a cassette tape purchased from a RadioShack in Sylva, North Carolina. Bouncing with energy and buoyed by the big bandish optimism of postwar America, it makes me smile and snap my fingers and feel a yuletide chill in the air, even if it's a 75-degree day in Florida. In other words, it is ideal.

"The Christmas Song," Nat King Cole
Mel Torme and Bob Wells wrote it in 1945. Everybody knows it, but not everybody knows its title, so it is sometimes referred to as "Merry Christmas to You" and sometimes as "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire."

From its line about "Jack Frost nipping at your nose" to its one about "kids from one to ninety-two" to its one about "tiny tots with their eyes all aglow," I daresay that no other song has lyrics which do as good a job capturing the manifold feelings of the Christmas season.

And, I dare ask why anyone has even bothered to record "The Christmans Song" after Nat King Cole did so? His rendering 15 years after the song was written remains, in my opinion, hands-down the best Christmas song of all time.


"Baby It's Cold Outside"
Actually, I kind of like this duet. It's catchy and cheeky, and since I'm not a prude, I am not offended by the persistence of the male who is represented in its vocals.

But can somebody please explain why it is considered a Christmas song? It has nothing to do with Christmas. It never mentions the holiday; and other than using the word "cold," it never mentions anything that's even related to the holiday. Calling this a Christmas song is kind of like calling "Summertime Blues" a Fourth of July song because, well, July is in the summer.

Listen to the lyrics. They are solely about a guy trying to get into a girl's pants. No matter how much she insists she doesn't want to stay for the night, he constantly pressures her to do so because it's cold outside. She explicitly says "the answer is no," and he retorts that "you'll freeze out there" and "what's the sense of hurting my pride?" At one point she actually says "what's in this drink?" When she worries about what gossipers will say, his response is that it would cause him "lifelong sorrow if you caught pneumonia and died." She calls him "very pushy" and he replies "I like to think of it as opportunistic."

Again, I'm not a prude, but seriously, what does this song have to do with Christmas? How come we only hear it this time of year, and only on the stations that switch to a 24/7 Christmas format? There is something amiss.

"Happy Xmas (War is Over)"
I have mixed emotions about putting this on my "least favorites" list. John Lennon was a genuine pacifist who meant no harm to anyone. I have no doubt that when he and Yoko crafted this Christmas song using the melody of the old English ballad "Skewball," they did so with golden hearts. It was meant as a Vietnam War protest, and I have no doubt that they believed lying down military arms in that part of the world would be good for mankind.

My problem is this: The blinders they wore when crafting the song were shared by millions in the West, and those blinders caused real life disaster for people in the Third World of Southeast Asia. Without American military might, the impoverished villagers of South Vietnam were left stranded without freedom and at the mercy of Ho Chi Minh's murderous tyranny.

Generations of people on the Indochina Peninsula had their futures destroyed and hopes crushed when America went the route that John, Yoko, and the other Sixties peaceniks preferred. Had the peaceniks trumpeted any concen for the real life fates of those people, the song "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" might make me smile. Instead it makes me sad.

"Santa Baby"
This is far and away the most repulsive, alleged Christmas song of all time... In a season that's about selflessness, giving, and spiritual redemption, this song is all about self-absorption, materialism, and spiritual vacuity... Rather than seeking peace, love, and harmony, the narrator demands "a yacht," "the deed to a platinum mine," and "decorations bought at Tiffany's"... For evidence that she belongs on the nice list, the only things she mentions are "all the fun that I've missed" and "all the fellas that I haven't kissed"... Yes, this is exactly how we should teach our children about the virtues and principles of the season. I know it was written as a novelty song, but I cringe every time I hear it.

In any event, there is one week remaining until Christmas. Be merry all week long.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Carol Born

When it comes to carols, I have always found “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” to be especially poignant (if you're not familiar with it, you can listen to it here.)

It did not begin as a song, but as a poem written on Christmas morning by America’s greatest poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, more than 150 Christmases ago. At that moment in time America was torn apart and battling itself in the Civil War – a war that still stands as the one in which more Americans died than in any other.

When dawn broke that morning, Longfellow was despondent. During the war his son Charles had been horrifically wounded when a bullet passed through part of his spine, leading to a long and excruciating recovery. And as if that wasn’t dark enough, his wife Frances had died as a result of burns sustained when her clothes were set on fire by dripping sealing wax, which she was melting with the intention of using it to preserve some of their daughter’s trimmed curls.

But despite that sorrowful backdrop, as Longfellow sat in his Massachusetts home on Christmas and heard the ringing of local church bells, his faith in divine promise started to stir and he was moved to put pen to paper. The resulting poem was transformed into a hymn nine years later, when John Baptiste Calkin composed the music to which it was set.

The poem’s words absolutely speak for themselves. Since some of them are excluded from the carol we normally hear this time of year, here they are in their entirety:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Sunday, December 11, 2016

That Christmas Feeling

I published this post six years ago, when Sarah was a kindergartner and Parker was, like I said, "resting snugly in Erika's womb" ... Today, Sarah is a hormonal middle schooler and Parker is bouncing off the walls with the energy of a meerkat ... She now knows the truth about Santa, and her theme park tastes have graduated from Disney to Universal, but she still loves Christmas ... Meanwhile, he believes in Santa but recently remarked that Dylan's eyes "look like stickers" (Dylan is our Elf on the Shelf) ... Re-reading this post made me smile so I can't help but re-publish it: 

As long as I can remember, I have spent the Thanksgiving-through-New-Year’s season feeling buoyant and hopeful. On December mornings like today’s, when the temperatures are below freezing and the grass is coated with frost, I have always found it easy to catch the Christmas spirit.

But even for people like me, the appreciation we feel for this time of year is increased many times over when we become parents. Watching our children’s faces light up with wonder, we remember how we felt at this time of year when we were kids. Surely, even the most jaded adult must have fond recollections of Christmas Past and hope that today’s tykes are enjoying Christmas Present.

When Sarah was two, I am pretty sure she remembered Christmas from when she was one, but I know she remembered it when she was three. That was the year we got a flat tire while driving to the annual Christmas Eve party for my extended family. It was dark and cloudy and we were stranded for some time on a rural road -- a circumstance that would usually lead to bad moods and quick tempers. But when the lights of an airplane tracking through the clouds became visible, I pointed to them and told Sarah it was Santa’s sleigh. Her face immediately lit up. She pointed at the lights and wiggled and shrieked to Erika: “Mommy! Mommy! It’s Santa! It’s Santa!” And a potentially bad experience was transformed into a golden moment that will never be forgotten.

Exactly one year later, when she was four, getting her to go to bed on Christmas Eve proved next to impossible. For what seemed like hours, she kept getting up every few minutes and running into our room, laughing and jumping and swearing that through her window she had just seen Santa’s sleigh in the sky. Then she started saying that she thought she heard reindeer on the roof. And she kept getting up and making these claims over and over and over again…

When she was five, we took her to Disney World on December 23rd, and the Magic Kingdom was decked out in holiday splendor. After night fell, as we made our way down Main Street USA with Sarah on my shoulders, she broke into song and belted out “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.” Then artificial snowflakes started to shower down, blown from the tops of the storefronts, and the day came to a picture-perfect end.

The next night saw more classic, Christmas Eve moments. Sarah claimed she saw Rudolph’s nose in the sky on our way home from the annual party. Before bed she made a trail of cookies in our driveway to lead the reindeer to our door. At the end was a marshmallow snowman cookie, along with a note on which she wrote: “Rudolph only.”

Finally, inside our home on her own small table by the tree, Sarah left milk and cookies, and an unfortunately broken candy cane, out for Santa. We disposed of the food and drink before she awoke, and Erika was sure to leave cookie crumbs on the plate next to the empty glass. Erika also composed a thank you note from Santa to Sarah. We had already turned this into a tradition, and Sarah reveled in it again.

Sarah is now six. For the third December in a row she is rising before the roosters every single morning, opening her Advent Box and finding where the Elf on the Shelf has moved to. She is smart as a whip and I did not expect her to still believe in Santa last year, but now it is a whole year later and she continues to believe.

We have always told her that Christmas is to commemorate the birth of Jesus, and is about giving rather than receiving, and she seems to get it. Two years ago, when we told her that after opening her gifts she had to choose one to give away to the poor, she countered by asking if she could give away ten of her old toys rather than one of her new ones.

When Sarah was born, we actually said that we would not even do the Santa thing, specifically to avoid the dreaded conversation in which we would have to admit (there’s no delicate way to put this) that we have been lying to her all these years. Then Christmas came and we did the Santa thing anyway, and although I have some reservations, I don’t have any regrets when I watch her enjoy herself. Her excitement heightens mine and Erika’s, and I am serene in my confidence that she will look back on these days with happiness. After all, one of my fondest memories of Christmas Past is of the year my parents broke the news to me that Santa is not real. The memory involves a chalkboard, but that is a story I will share another time, perhaps another year.

The bottom line is this: I love Christmas to begin with, but I love it even more because of my little girl. Erika and I can not wait to keep making new memories with her and her little sibling, who right now is resting snugly in Erika's womb.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Real Saint Nick

History provides many examples of actual people who have, over time, become so melded into the popular imagination that we tend to forget they were real. Saint Nicholas is one of them.

Born sometime around 280 A.D. in the town of Patara, in what was then part of Greece but is now part of Turkey, Nicholas was the son of wealthy parents who died when he was young. Having been raised as a devoted Christian, he spent his life using his inheritance to help those in need, and in addition to his charity he became known for harboring great concern for children and sailors.

Down through history, one particular story about his generosity has persisted. In those days, women whose families could not pay a dowry were more likely to die as spinsters than to get married. It is said that when Nicholas learned of a poor man who was worried about his daughters’ fate because he lacked money for their dowries, Nicholas surreptitiously tossed gold into the man’s home through an open window, and the gold landed in stockings that were drying by the fire. Much later, this 1,700-year-old story inspired the modern tradition of hanging stockings by the chimney to receive gifts from Santa on Christmas Eve.

Nicholas became Bishop of Myra and was imprisoned during the anti-Christian persecutions carried out by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Based on the stories of his life, Catholic tradition considers him a patron saint of children, orphans, sailors, travelers, the wrongly imprisoned, and many other categories of people. Churches were constructed in his honor as early as the sixth century A.D. Today, his remains are buried in BariItaly.

For generations now, kids and adults alike have used the names Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, and Saint Nick interchangeably, without giving it a second thought. But there was an actual Saint Nicholas, a decent man who is obscured by commercial renderings of Christmas. We should not allow that fact to be forgotten, regardless of whether or not we are Catholic (and for the record, I am not).

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


The President-elect exceeds expectations by making good cabinet selections.

The President-elect lives down to low expectations by musing on Twitter about how he would like to eliminate free expression criminalize flag-burning.

One of the most brutal, murderous, racist, homophobic tyrants of the last hundred years dies -- and American liberals (including one who was the Green Party nominee in this year's presidential election) respond by praising him.

Said Green Party presidential nominee launches a suspicious-looking movement to force three states to hold recounts.

A resort town in one of my favorite areas on Earth gets scorched by a sudden wildfire of apocalyptic proportions.

Normally I could blog for hours about any one of these things, but right now I don't have it in me.

I have often been accused of complimented for writing about politics a lot. Which I do. But as hard as this is to believe, I take no joy in it.

Ok, ok, every now and then I do take a little bit of joy in it, but not often and not much. I want government to be far away from our lives and not meddle in them, so that we never have to think about it.

Unfortunately, however, 'tis not in government's nature to leave us alone and let us be free. Therefore, I feel a duty to keep an eye on government, and that sense of duty often drives me to my keyboard to cry foul in print (or whatever passes for print these days).

Right now, however, the drive is not there. Last week I started writing a post about the Electoral College, which I believe to be a vitally important topic, but I can't motivate myself to finish it, at least not for the time being. My "current events needle" is stuck on zero and I have no desire to step on the gas.

A few weeks ago, I loved hiking in the Smokies in their pleasant autumn temps. I treasured snuggling with Parker when I tucked him into bed tonight. I enjoyed driving fast across the bridge this morning, windows down, when Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" came on the radio. The political world was nowhere on my mind when those things happened, and looking back, that's how I like it.

Right now I want to take my family and move to the mountains, and spend every day enjoying the company and horsing around and appreciating life. The last thing I want to do is get my knickers in a twist about Chuck Schumer saying something slimy or Donald Trump saying something nutty.

It is normal for me to take a bit of a blogging break in December, by recycling previous posts about Christmas rather than hammering out new ones about shenanigans in DC and Damascus. This time around, my break from "political blogging" is going to be longer than normal (barring unforeseen circumstances).

2016 has been a rough year and I am putting my wires back into the plugs where they belong. Sure, I will write about politics again -- probably starting by finishing that Electoral College post I mentioned -- but that won't be for a while and it won't be as frequent.

I am not going soft -- I will still call out politicians and opinion shapers who need to be called out -- but you will be seeing a larger proportion of uplifting, unpolitical things posted here in 2017. And right now that's all I have to say.

Well, that and may the Christmas season bring you joy and peace, whether you celebrate Christmas or not.

Take care.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Post-Election Thoughts

I remember precisely what I was doing when I realized Donald Trump was going to win the election.

Our Chihuahua had started running in circles in front of the couch, her nails making a sound on the hardwood that always irritates me. I asked if she had to go potty and she responded by circling even faster, which I took to mean yes, so I stood, grabbed her leash from the coat rack, stooped over, slid it round her neck, and turned to lead her to the front door. That was when I heard Megyn Kelly proclaim that Fox had a major announcement to make.

Those words caused me to pivot back around and look at the TV. Seconds later Kelly said Wisconsin was being called for Trump, and that's when I knew his momentum could not be stopped.

He had already taken the swing states of Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio; was running neck and neck with Hillary in the usually blue states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and New Hampshire; and all signs indicated he was going to win usually blue Iowa... so when the Badger State turned red on a day without college football, it became clear that electoral history was being made.

Schadenfreude instantly began coursing through my veins despite me having repeatedly written that Trump ain't fit to be prez... My virtuous side thrilled at the thought of Clinton Inc. getting rebuked by America because America's voters decided they are not going to tolerate any more above-the-law corruption in public office... My less virtuous side grinned at the thought of Hillary's arrogant, self-absorbed ass being denied the MacGuffin she does not deserve yet feels entitled to... And my entirely unvirtuous side cackled gleefully at thoughts of Rachel Maddow losing control of her bowels and Lena Dunham's half-watt brain straining to figure out how to make good on her promise to move to Canada.

But then I felt sorry for Canada and especially for the people of Vancouver, whose tranquility was threatened by Dunham identifying their city as the specific place to which she would relocate in the event of a Trump victory.

Today, no matter how much the devil on my one shoulder tells me to enjoy the spectacle, the angel on my other one reminds me that I have opposed Trump and been serious about opposing him. So with those competing voices in my ears, here are some of my post-election thoughts:

Democrat Implosion
On November 8th most members of the punditry and political class were certain that Trump's candidacy proved the GOP was in the throes of an existential crisis... but come November 9th it was obvious that it is the Democrats, not the Republicans, who are in crisis.

The Democratic Party is now on a six-year losing streak that includes consecutive mid-term shellackings and massive losses of state legislatures and governor's mansions, in addition to last week's unprecedented presidential defeat.

What makes the presidential defeat unprecedented? The fact that it came against a candidate who: 1) has never held a single political office, not even dog-catcher; 2) ignored every rule of conventional political wisdom known to man; 3) is distrusted even by many in his own party; and 4) oversaw a thinly staffed campaign that did little oppo research or internal polling and had only a fraction of the field offices his competitor had.

Despite being portrayed by the media as anti-Hispanic and anti-black, Trump increased the GOP's share of both the Hispanic vote and the black vote by substabtial margins.

Making matters even more dire, the Dems lost Wisconsin for the first time since 1984, Michigan and Pennsylvania for the first time since 1988, Iowa for only the second time in the last seven elections -- and came within two points of losing Minnesota, which has not voted Republican in 44 years (a full twenty years longer than California).

Since 2008, when Obama was first elected, the percentage of votes to go Democrat in presidential elections in the Midwest has dropped from 54 to 45... and the change in Midwestern electoral votes is even more dramatic, having gone from 80-38 Democrat in 2012 to 88-30 Republican this year.

Even in the Northeast, which Clinton still managed to win, her share of the vote was four points smaller than Obama's in 2012.

On the same night Trump defeated Clinton for the presidency, a Republican was elected governor of Vermont -- by nine freakin' points.

And back in usually blue Pennsylvania, where a U.S. Senate seat was up for grabs, more money was spent on Democrat Kathleen McGinty's campaign than has ever been on any Senate campaign in all of American history -- yet she still lost to Republican Pat Toomey.

So yes, it is the party of the jackass, not the party of the pachyderm, that is in free fall.

Will the Dems...
...look in the mirror when they search for someone to blame for their defeat?

In a sane world, when you get routed so thoroughly and nominate a presidential candidate who is so bad she can't even beat the opponent described above, it would cause you to reconsider what you are doing. But the Democratic Party is run by people who seem incapable of understanding that they aren't perfect, so who knows what the party's long-term reaction will be?

There has been some talk of turning the reins over to its leftist wing, the one where Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are perched. However, many of the party's leaders are the exact kind of people Sanders is talking about when he rails against "millionaires and billionaires," and Warren The Fake Cherokee is herself one of those people, even if her fans don't realize it. So what are the odds of the party going in that direction? And if it does, will moving that way increase or decrease its chances of winning in the future? I dunno.

Meanwhile, I have seen online comments that say the states that voted for Clinton are the smart ones so the others should go to Hell where they belong. That sentiment is fueling the suddenly trending movement for California (and perhaps California, Oregon, and Washington in unison) to secede from the country because Clinton lost. I daresay that that attitude is not only smug and infantile, but also stupid and ignorant, and it disproves its own "we're better" premise. It is the primary reason Trump beat Clinton, which means the Dems will be committing political suicide if they embrace it and advance it.

Primary Reason?
When I say that that smug attitude is the primary reason Trump beat Clinton, what I mean is that this was a backlash election. People voted for Trump not because he offered compelling ideas or high policy, but because they are sick of snobbish elites looking down their noses at them and insulting their intelligence, and they love that Trump punches back at the elites without apologizing. Because the vast majority of elites are on the left side of the political spectrum, the voters' backlash inevitably drew far more blood from the Democratic Party than from the Republican Party.

So, will the Republicans...
...successfully walk the tightrope on which they now stand?

In case I wasn't clear in the previous section, let me put it a different way: Trump's victory was not really a victory of conservatism or Republicanism, it was merely a rejection of elitism.

Now, with him of all people being the face of both the populist revolt and the GOP, the GOP is in a precarious position.

Starting in January Republicans will own the executive branch and both chambers of the legislative branch, which means they will be able to do whatever they want because Democrats will be numerically incapable of stopping them. This means that every policy failure for the next two years will be owned by the GOP because new policies will have few (if any) Democrat fingerprints on them. In turn, this means that if things don't go well, the GOP could get slaughtered in the 2018 mid-terms.

As always, Thomas Sowell had it right when he quipped: "Donald Trump is a wild card. We don't know whether he was play-acting when he carried on like a juvenile lout or when he played the role of a mature adult. But he and the country could both benefit from some serious introspection on his part." The fact that Trump is not conservative on many issues (and has changed political parties almost as frequently as George Steinbrenner used to change baseball managers) means congressional Republicans will have their work cut out for them if he heads out of bounds and needs to be brought back between the lines. If that happens, I hope they are up to the task.

The Dichotomy
And now, back to the more enjoyable pastime of chuckling about liberalism's double standards.

In the days leading up to November 8th, and for much of November 8th itself, the Democrat Media Complex was openly fretting about whether Donald Trump and his voters would peacefully "accept" the results of the election. Obviously the DMC assumed Clinton was going to win.

But when the assumption didn't pan out, liberals took to the streets and started rioting in many of their enclaves, even supposedly laid-back Portland. In Chicago, a white man who rioters assumed had voted for Trump (he wore no Trump clothing and his car had no Trump stickers) was dragged from his car by a black mob and pummeled. Somehow the "Media" part of the DMC (and yes, I know there's really not a difference) went out of its way to call the riots "protests" and use the phrase "mostly peaceful" in every story about them.

If Trump had lost and any of his supporters behaved like that, do you think the DMC would have used the phrase the "mostly peaceful" to describe them? If a white mob in Wichita assaulted a black man on the assumption he voted for Clinton, do you think the DMC would be mostly mum about the incident, or do you think it would have trumpeted it in newspapers and news shows for weeks on end?

Speaking of whether the DMC would choose to trumpet a story or be mum about it, what do you think its choice would be if Trump had lost and then not appeared to address his supporters when the results were known... and then people who were in his presence had claimed that he was kept from public view because he went "into a rage" and "picked up objects and threw them at attendants and staff" and "began yelling, screaming obscenities, and pounding furniture" in a "psychotic drunken rage"?

Well, all of the above has been said about Election Night Hillary by people who are in a position to know. I don't know if the claims are true, which might be a good reason for the mainstream media (also known as the DMC) to have kept quiet about it... but do you really think they would be quiet if identical reports existed about Der Trumpster? Me either.

...the GOP should not settle for only an anti-media and pro-policy stance. It must take very public steps to disown the so-called alt-Right.

(Personally, I despise the term "alt-Right" because it describes people who are bigots and not conservatives and including the word "Right" in their moniker is an attempt to glue them to a movement where they don't belong. But I'm not gonna go down that alley right now because it's a whole 'nother blog post. Plus, the term has become so common and so convenient to use that I'm actually going to use it.)

Back to my point: The alt-Right consists of a small number of people, perhaps even vanishingly small, but there is no way to tell exactly how many there are or exactly who they are. After all, it's not like they register anywhere, and many of them don't use their own names when posting their vitriolic comments online. Plus, some of the worst "alt-Right" comments are posted not by conservatives, but by liberals who claim to be conservatives and then go on to say racist things because they know it will make conservatism look bad.

Some Republicans are probably tempted to assume that the alt-Right is just another media-created fiction cooked up to discredit conservatism and the GOP... but it is not fiction, as many prominent conservatives can attest after having been personally targeted for refusing to be silent about Trump's flaws.

The inability to measure the size of the alt-Right, and to know who belongs to it, understandably makes millions of black people (and other minorities) nervous. Because alt-Right voters voted mostly for Trump (and those who didn't vote for Trump probably went for a motley mix of write-in and third party candidates) this is the GOP's problem to deal with. Exclusively the GOP's problem. And the GOP must deal with it rather than put its head in the sand.

I suspect that Steve Bannon, in his heart of hearts, is not the deplorable bigot many of his critics make him out to be. But I also believe that people like Ben Shapiro tell the truth, so I am inclined to believe what he wrote abut Bannon here, and I know that Breitbart News became sensationalist and unreliable after Andrew Breitbart died and Bannon took over -- so if we are going to purge the alt-Right, let's just say that a good way to start would be for Trump to change his mind about giving Bannon the position of Senior Counselor to the President.

The Electoral College
I have a lot to say about it and it deserves its own post. So instead of writing about it here, I'll write about it in the near future.

For now: Au Revoir!

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Ughlection

Ugh. That's the first word that comes to mind when I think about the 2016 presidential election. The only reason I'm writing about it is because I feel obligated to, even though I would rather be typing away about family or hiking or college football or black hockey players, or any of the other topics I've written about in the eight years I've had this blog.

Many of the posts I've done have been about politics and national and world affairs. That's because I believe national and word affairs are important; that they have actual impact on people; that at some point you and I might be those people -- and because I believe that means we have to keep an eye on what our politicians are up to.

But when you are given a choice between Awful Candidate A and Awful Candidate B; and the only credible argument A's supporters can make for A is that he/she is not B; and the only credible argument B's supporters can make for B is that he/she is not A; and the one who represents your party takes stances that are often in contrast to the principles which have guided the party for generations -- it makes it hard to feel like banging the drums for people to vote in either direction.

Nevertheless, because I have invested a lot of time these last eight years explaining where I stand and why I stand there, I feel compelled to do it again on the eve of this big election. So here I go, and if you're expecting me to "endorse" either candidate, be prepared for disappointment.

Hillary Clinton - The Case Against
I could write a whole book about this but I'll stick with a Reader's Digest version.

In short, Hillary Clinton intends to violate the Constitution and eliminate the First Amendment; has a more than two-decade record in public office that consists only of failure; and is both power-mad and vindictive.

Don't believe She intends to eliminate the First Amendment? Well, She has said so Herself, though of course She uses the weasel words "overturn Citizens United." More than once She has said She will nominate Supreme Court justices who pledge to overturn the Court's prior ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and She has also advocated for intoducing a Constitutional Amednement to overturn the ruling.

Leftist politicians and commentators have been successful at convincing millions of Americans that that case was about bribery, but it was not. What those on the losing side of the case (Clinton's side) were trying to do was allow the federal government to tell private citizens what they are permitted to say about politicians and when they are permitted to say it. The Court's decision was 5-4, which means that if just one justice had voted differenly, the First Amendment would now be gone without the government needing to go through the hassle of passing an amendment to get rid of it.

Don't believe Clinton has a record of failure? As First Lady Her attempt to orchestrate a federal takeover of the country's healthcare failed... Later, She spent six years in the U.S. Senate during which She had no legislative accomplishments to speak of... Then She spent four years as U.S. Secretary of State, which put Her at the forefront of America's foreign policy, and during those four years She oversaw a Russian "reset" that saw us become Russia's whipping boy while Russia invaded free nations without a whimper of criticism from we who are supposed to be the leaders of the free world... And don't even get me started about Her treachery in Benghazi.

Don't believe She's power-mad and vindictive? Recall the travel office firings She orchestrated; Her campaigns to slander and destroy women who told the truth about Her husband; and the existence of a seven-level "enemies spreadsheet" kept by Her People, not for the purpose of targeting Republicans, but for targeting and punising loyal Democrats who were insufficiently obsequious to Her.

She claims to be a defender of women and children despite Her afore-mendtioned slander campaign against women who were sexually abused by Her husband; despite bragging about how She secured a light sentence for a child rapist; and despite the fact that She denies women the right to choose their chidren's school (a right that would be good for mother and child) while passionately advocating for allowing women to murder their children have abortions at any time for any reason (a "right" that is damaging to the mother and fatal to the child).

And I haven't even mentioned Emailgate, which is so jaw-droppingly scandalous that it disqualifies Her from holing any public office all by itself.

Hillary Clinton - The Case For
I've already said I don't believe there is any case that favors voting for Clinton (as opposed to voting against Trump) but some of Her acolytes have peddled the notion that She has "experience" and is not prone to the kind of "reckless" decision-making Trump is known for.

Well, like I already pointed out, Her "experience" is one of failure (with no offsetting success). And as I see it, Her lack of being "reckless" is more than offset by the fact that She acts with premeditated bad faith, has no remorse about harming people, and acts solely to increase Her own power and wealth.

Donald Trump - The Case Against
I could write a whole book about this but I'll stick with a Reader's Digest version.

In short, Donald Trump intends to violate the Constitution and would like to eliminate the First Amendment; has a more than three-decade record in business that consists mostly of failure; and is both power-mad and vindictive. Sound familiar?

Don't believe he intends to violate the Constitution? Well, maybe it would have been more accurate to say he displays no knowledge of what the Constitution says and that he intends to do whatever he wants no matter what; and thus, him violating the Constitution is inevitable because its constraints will frequently stand in the way of his desires.

As for the First Amendment, when Trump's critics and opponents have said things he doesn't like over the years, he has responded by suing them, threatening to sue them, issuing cease-and-desist orders -- and musing about the need to "loosen" libel laws to make it easier for him to have his critics prosecuted. Do you seriously want this man to have any say when it comes to your right to free speech?

Don't believe he has a record of business failure? Well, read this all the way through.

Don't believe he's power-mad and vindictive? Well, re-read what I just said about him and the First Amendment, then remember how he bragged that as president he would order our soldiers to commit war crimes (by killing not just terrorists, but their presumably innocent relatives) and that the troops would obey such orders (which military code says they should refuse) because it would be him, not some other president, giving them.

Then remember how he shrugged off allegations that Vladimir Putin has had journalists killed, and how he has spoken admirably of Putin and Hussein for running tight ships in which their subjects citizens know not to step out of line. Trump has spoken of Putin and other dictators not as dangerous men who should be resisted, but as men with whom he can "make deals." Do you seriously want him to be the leader of the free world?

Along those same lines, Trump has talked about it not being worth our while to defend some of our NATO allies if Russia attacks them -- despite the fact that we would be treaty-bound (and ethics-bound) to do so under Article 5. He has been officially running for president for well more than a year yet the words "freedom" and "liberty" have almost never crossed his lips. So again: Do you seriously want him to be the leader of the free word?

Donad Trump - The Case For
I've already said I don't believe there is any case that favors voting for Trump (as opposed to voting against Clinton) but I must admit that on the latter point, some of his supporters have made compelling arguments that he should be given the keys to the White House in order to prevent Clinton from nominating a leftist to the Supreme Court. I agree that a leftist taking over what used to be Antonin Scalia's seat would be the gravest threat to individual rights and liberty that our nation has ever seen, and therefore I do not criticize anyone who votes for Trump out of concern for the balance of the Court.

But the "vote for Trump to save the Court" argument assumes that he will appoint good justices, and I see no reason for anybody to assume that. To choose justices to appoint, one must have extesnive knowledge of the Constitution and also have a guiding philosophy about the rule of law, separation of powers, and role of government. Donald Trump has none of these.

Trump's only opinion regarding anything on Earth is that it (whatever it is) should be bent and manipulated to serve whatever Trump's perceived personal interests are at whatever moment in time the thought happens to be in his head. Yes, he has said he will nomiate an originalist to the Court, but there are no reasons to believe him and plenty of reasons to doubt him. If, come nomination time, he feels it would suit him better to appoint a non-originalist, he will appoint a non-originalist.

As far as I know, the only specific judge he has ever praised is his sister, who happens to be a hard core leftist best known for her advocacy of abortion on demand; i.e., for advocating in a way that runs entirely counter to originalism, seeing as how the Constitution says nothing about a right to abortion and nothing about a right to privacy.

Plus, Trump is a known liar of such renown that it seems like he enjoys betraying people's trust, so why wouldn't he enjoy betraying the trust of voters?

Considering all of the ways in which a Trump presidency is almost certain to be bad, is it worth giving him your stamp of approval on the off chance that he might on one single issue accidentally do something good? If you are a conservative, on what basis do you think Donald Trump can be trusted to deliver a good Supreme Court justice, when it was Reagan gave us Anthony "Weather Vane" Kennedy and W who gave us John "Obamacare" Roberts?

Yes, it's us
Many people have wondered how it is that "this is all we have" when it comes to our choices for president in 2016.

Not me. As I see it, the answer is simple and obvious: Amercian culture has degenerated, has debased itself, and politics is downstream from culture -- which means it has been inevitable that we would eventually end up with presidential candidates who are degenerate and debased, and this happens to be the year in which the chickens have come home to roost.

Policy differences aside, both parties had honorable candidates running for their nominations during this year's primaries, but the voters opted for the dishonorable ones.

On the Democrat side, Jim Webb is too trusting in big government for my taste, yet he is so dedicated to fighting despotism and terrorism that I would have voted for him in the general election if it was Trump he was running against. And although Bernie Sanders's ideas strike me as daffy and dated, they have the virtue of being sincerely held with positive intent... However, Democrat primary voters (with a big assist from the party's corrupt establishment) chose to nominate a crass corporatist who treats politics as Her own personal enrichment-by-extraction scheme, taking bribes through the Clinton Foundation and charging universities $300,000 for 30-minute speeches while decrying the cost of tuition.

On the Republican side, 16 candidates threw their hats in the ring and 15 of them were decent, dedicated public servants with a variety of governing philosophies... However, Republican primary voters chose to nominate the 16th candidate, a self-focused charlatan who has no governing philosophy and is, in the words of Virginia Hume, "almost pathologically incurious about policy."

In short, we the voters can't blame the parties for the options that are currently in front of us, for it is we the voters who put those options there when we had others to choose from. That is a cultural problem, not a political problem; and our politics won't get fixed until our culture does; and it is we, and we alone, who are capable of and responsible for fixing our culture.

What will happen tomorrow?
I have no idea, but I do know this: For our nation to become great again, all of us as individuals must start communicating with each other instead of at each other, and must start holding our own party accountable when it fails in its stated purpose.

And I know this: I will not blog about the election for a while, because by the time dawn breaks on Wednesday my wheels will be rolling me to the mountains, where cell signal is sporadic and I will have no computer.

In short, I will be in a place where politics are kept were they should be: Far, far in the distance and away from daily life.

So until next time: Auf Wiedersehen!

Friday, October 28, 2016

The All-Time Black Hockey Team

The World Cup of Hockey was recently completed, and like I hoped, the free thinking that decided which teams would participate paid off.

It included most of the national teams we are used to seeing at the top of international tournaments -- namely, Canada, the USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic -- but the NHL got creative by adding a Team Europe and Team North America to the mix. The former consisted of players from European countries not named above, and the latter was a youngsters squad comprised only of Canadians and Americans age 23 or younger (three of its players are still in their teens).

Team Europe made it all the way to the final before falling to Canada. Team North America made waves by clobbering Finland and knocking off Sweden in OT. Chalk two up for thinking out of the box.

Part of me wanted to welcome the World Cup by writing blog posts about what I consider to be each country's all-time national team, putting players from different generations on the same roster. I never got around to that, but in the wake of the World Cup, and while enjoying the start of the NHL season, an out-of-the-box idea has risen in my mind: Why not name an all-time black hockey team?

Hockey has long been considered a white sport and many people today still think of it that way. But there are quite a few black players in the NHL right now, and black players made a significant impact on the game even before "right now." As far as I know, no one has ever compiled an all-time black roster, so here I am to do the job, in all my white-assed glory!

Fyi, for the purposes of this post I am going to treat black and biracial as one and the same. I have neither the time nor worldview to put any stock into notions of "racial purity" or "one drop" rules, regardless of which race I'm talking about. In any event, here goes:

Center  -  Nathan LaFayette
A third-round pick in 1991, LaFayette went on to play NHL hockey for six seasons, most notably for the Vancouver Canucks and LA Kings, in a career cut short by injury. His star shone brightest in the 1994 playoffs when he topped the league with a plus/minus of +13, tallying 9 post-season points to help guide Vancouver all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Unfortunately for him and Canucks fans, they lost Game Seven to the Mark Messier-led New York Rangers.

Right Wing  -  Jarome Iginla
Born in Canada to a Nigerian father and American mother, Jarome Iginla made his NHL debut in 1996 and remains in the league to this day, still playing well and drawing attention from opposing defenses.

A powerful skater with a blistering shot and nose for getting to the puck, he is one of only 19 players in the NHL's long history to score more than 600 goals. His to-date tally of 612 puts him ahead of such luminaries as Bobby Hull, Rocket Richard, Mike Bossy, and Guy LaFleur... The 1,095 points he rang up during his time in Calgary (525 goals + 570 assists) make him the top points producer in Flames history, by a whopping margin of 265 more than second place Theo Fleury... Plus he shows no signs of stopping, seeing as how he's shooting above 14% (better than his career average) so far this season.

Left Wing  -  Tony McKegney
McKegney's NHL career spanned from 1978 to 1991, during which he was known for Steady Eddie dependability in an era remembered more for outrageous personalities and gaudy stats. McKegney had nine seasons of 20+ goals, including three of 30+. His best season was 1987-88, when he bagged 40 goals and dished out 38 assists; the resulting 78 points stood for 14 years as the highest-scoring season by a black player, until Iginla broke it by racking up 96 (52 + 44) in 2001-2002. Everyone who has ever coached sports would give his right arm to have someone like McKegney on his roster.

Defense  -  Johnny Oduya
When you think about places to look for black athletes, you don't think of Stockholm, Sweden, but Johnny Oduya is living proof that you shouldn't assume they aren't there (and come to think of it, if you don't mind me sliding back to my 1980's sexual fantasies, the steamy Neneh Cherry is from Stockholm too!).

A solid two-way defenseman, Oduya is currently in his tenth NHL season and anchoring the Dallas blue line, but is best known for his stellar stint in Chicago that saw him play a key role in winning two Stanley Cup championships. In 2013, it was he who notched the assist on the Cup-winning goal against Boston with 59 seconds remaining in Game Six.

Side note:  Oduya's older brother Fredrik was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in 1993. Although Fredrik never cracked an NHL roster, he played professionally for eight years in the AHL, Sweden, and UK before dying in a motorcycle accident in this interestingly named town.

Defense  -  P.K. Subban
It seems a little strange to include a player on this roster who is only 27 and has yet to reach his peak, but then again, we're talking about P.K.! He has arguably the biggest and most charismatic personality of anybody in the NHL, which makes some people love him and some people hate him -- but most importantly, his game matches his personality.

A Norris Trophy winner (defenseman of  the year) and two-time All-Star, Subban patrols the blue line with authority and has a rocket of a shot that causes some people to accuse him of neglecting his defensive duties -- which would be a problem if it was true, but I've watched him play a lot of hockey and my eyeballs tell me it's not true.

Montreal's fans are undoubtedly the most demanding on Earth and arguably the most knowledgeable on Earth, and most of them responded with outrage when Subban was traded to Nashville in the offseason. That should tell you all you need to know.

Goaltender  -  Grant Fuhr
He has five Stanley Cup rings (all of them earned as a starter, although injury sidelined him during the playoffs for one of the five) and Wayne Gretzky has repeatedly called him the greatest goalie to ever play the game. As is true of all greats, he was at his best in the playoffs, which resulted in him being known as the best clutch goalie of the 1980's.

In addition to his status as a five-time Stanley Cup winner, Fuhr backstopped Team Canada to a pair of Canada Cup titles over the Soviets; was a six-time All-Star; and won both the Vezina and Jennings trophies... and he was the first black player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

That's the first line. I wanted to include my second line, but this post is already long so I'll save that for another time.

Friday, October 21, 2016

et ceteras

Eventually I will...
...opine about the election. But it's depressing because Clinton and Trump are both pretty much 100 percent guaranteed to be, um, deplorable as president. So, unable to make a case for either the GOP or Libertarian candidate (we'd have to go back to 1960 for me to make a case for a Democrat), I am choosing to write about things that aren't depressing.

Love Life
Several years ago I mentioned Steve Fugate in one of my blog posts. He walks across these United States -- literally, to the tune of 43,000 miles on eight walks through all of the Lower 48 -- imploring people to embrace and cherish the gift of life. It is a gift we've all been given but far too few of us appreciate.

I saw Mr. Fugate in the flesh on one occasion, more than 15 years ago, well before he thought of the mission that has become his calling. The occasion was the funeral of his son, Steve Jr., who took his own life. I semi-knew Steve Jr., having met and talked to him a couple times because he went to high school with Erika and, like many of her classmates, made his way from Vero Beach to Tampa after high school was over.

Some time after his only son deliberately perished, Mr. Fugate's only daughter accidentally perished at the feet of prescription drugs.

How is this not the most soul-crushing story ever? Well, Mr. Fugate decided to dispense love to strangers and friends across the fruited plain rather than poison his heart with bitterness. With less than $600 per month on which to live (a government check that, if my memory is accurate, owes to his prior military service) he hoisted his belongings on his back and in a cart; propped a sign atop his shoulders that says "Love Life"; and set out to wander our beautiful land and engage with people he met along the way.

His thoughts and anecdotes are insightful, original, and true, and some of them can be perused in his newly published book Love Life Walk. Go here to order it for yourself... and if you like what you read, leave a review on Amazon because the word on the street is that their algorithms steer more people to a title after it receives 50+ reviews (as of right now, his book has 42).

More Hockey, Part One
My October 14th post talked about a great rivalry being possible north of the border between the Connor McDavid-led Edmonton Oilers and Auston Matthews-led Toronto Maple Leafs. I went so far as to say it "could be similar to the Celtics/Bird vs. Lakers/Magic showdowns of the 1980's NBA."

But I should have also mentioned another team/player outfit north of the border, one I can't believe I overlooked because it involves my favorite NHL franchise from up there. I am talking, of course, about the Winnipeg Jets and Patrik Laine, the 18-year-old Finn they took with the second pick in June's draft.

Nine days ago Matthews blew the roof off by scoring four goals in his very first NHL regular season game. Then, two night ago, in the first head-to-head game between June's top two picks, Laine got the nod by recording a hat trick to lead the Jets to a 5-4 overtime victory over Matthews's Leafs. His heroics included the game-tying score in the final minute of regulation followed by the winner midway through OT -- a winner that came shortly after Matthews fired a would-be winner only to see Michael Hutchinson block it with a nifty save.

So coming off the first season in 46 years in which not a single Canadian franchise made the playoffs, what we have here is this: Three Canadian franchises, one from the eastern part of the country and one from the west and one from smack dab in the middle, all have hopeful futures and are led by teenagers who seem destined for superstardom.

And in a testament to one of the things that makes hockey the greatest sport going, those three teens come from three different nations, with Matthews hailing from Scottsdale, Arizona, Laine from Tampere, Finland, and McDavid from Richmond Hill, Ontario.

More Hockey, Part Two
It was announced yesterday that ESPN The Magazine named my Tampa Bay Lightning the number one franchise in all of professional sports (defined as the NHL, NFL, NBA and MLB).

Amen!  And Yes!

I am obviously biased, but I do objectively believe the mag got it right. The Bolts play in one of the world's finest arenas; have sold out 69 straight games; are enormously fan- and family-friendly; are philanthropic and heavily involved in the community; have a right-minded and open-hearted owner; have made deep playoff runs the last two years despite having a young roster; are not cheapskates when it comes to salaries; and they do it all while having an average ticket price that is in the league's bottom fourth.

Thanks to the quality of the Lightning franchise, my burg on Florida's west coast is a true hockey town, as much as some places in Canada and a many places in New England and the Upper Midwest. Again I say: Amen! And Yes!


Leonard Cohen is still churning out material at age 82.

If you have to ask who Leonard Cohen is, that's fine. I'll just say that he wrote one of the greatest sings ever and it was performed most brilliantly by k.d. lang here.

And since we're talking about music, here is arguably the most haunting and goosebumping song ever. Largely because it's a true story. The writer/singer is Colin Hay, and if his voice sounds familiar it's because you are over 40 and he used to be the front man of Men At Work.

The fact that the great Charles Krauthammer's thoughts about Trump vs. Clinton echo my own warms the cockles of my heart.

Why Hillary Clinton should never be allowed close to the presidency.

Why a segment of Trump voters should never be allowed in polite society.

And now...'s time for a break. See ya later.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My Angel Pie

I wrote and published this last year when Sarah turned 11. Today she turns 12. I could write even more, but I like this post so much I feel like simply re-posting it on this day. Love ya, Angel Pie! 

2004 was quite a year.

In sports, my Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup and my Auburn Tigers went undefeated on the gridiron.

Plus, there was a bit of a to-do in the baseball world, with the Red Sox rallying from a 3-0 series deficit to vanquish the Yankees and then proceeding to win the World Series -- thereby breaking the 86-year Curse of the Bambino.

In politics and national affairs, Ronald Reagan passed away, John Kerry was swift-boated, and Dan Rathers saw his career implode when he promoted fell for forged documents that lied to the public about misreported George W. Bush's National Guard service.

But to me personally, the most important event of 2004 happened on the 19th of October. I had become a father when Sarah Belle Stanton was conceived in January, but October 19th was when she was born and I got to hold her for the first time. This picture was taken shortly after:

Nowadays she looks like this:

Before becoming a father, I always thought that I would call my little girl "cuddle bunny" ... and sure enough, I did call her that in the hospital; but to my recollection, I only did so once, followed by another forced use of the phrase some time later ... instead, the phrase which fell naturally out of my mouth without having to think about it was "Angel Pie," and both Erika and I continue to call her that up to this very day.

Like her father, Sarah enjoys reading and writing. Late last year she started perusing the Harry Potter books, and it took no time at all for her to become a full-on fan of that series about the boy wizard who spent most of his first decade underneath the staircase at 4 Privet Drive in the village of Little Whinging.

I am happy she took to the series because I decided to read each volume in her wake, in the belief that they might contain enough imagery and story lines to entertain me as well as her -- which would make them the first books we could truly enjoy at the same time. That belief proved to be true, and it has turned the Potter series into one of our funnest shared experiences.

With Sarah turning 11 this month, Erika and I decided that her birthday present would be a weekend-long trip to Universal Resort in Orlando. The resort's two theme parks (Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure) are the joint home of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which puts every single thing in every single Disney park to shame.

Sarah could not wait to go; and while we were there this past weekend, she declared on several occasions that it was the best weekend of her life, which made us smile from ear to ear.

Universal Studios is home to Diagon Alley, the hidden-in-London street which is frequented by wizards and witches eager to purchase wands from Ollivander's and eager to do their banking at Gringott's:

Islands of Adventure is home to Hogsmeade, a Scottish village which ranks as the only municipality in all of Britain that is inhabited solely by wizards and witches:

Assuming you purchase a ticket that allows you into both parks, you can travel between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade by riding the Hogwarts Express steam train. In the books and movies, the Hogwarts Express departs from Platform  at London's King's Cross Station to transport students to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, though it also stops at Hogsmeade and presumably at other locations.

This past Saturday, when Sarah was standing on Platform  ready to board the Hogwarts Express, she was so excited that she had no idea the porter was photo-bombing her when I snapped this picture:

Diagon Alley is true to form with lots of places from the books and movies -- not only Ollivander's and Gringott's, but also Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, Quality Quidditch Supplies, Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour, and, of course, the offices of the most famous wizard newspaper:

And there is the ever-interesting Museum of Muggle Curiosities (in case you don't know, "muggles" is the word by which wizards and witches refer to us non-magic folk):

Over at Hogsmeade, Potter fans will be delighted to find Honeyduke's Sweet Shop and Zonko's Joke Shop -- along with that Old World pub known as The Three Broomsticks, at which you can purchase ale, shepherd's pie, fish and chips, turkey legs, and the hearty Great Feast. Here is a photo from The Three Broomsticks' dining room:

As we made our way through the larger Universal Studios on Saturday morning, en route to Diagon Alley, my heart fluttered to see Erika and Sarah side by side:

My heart also fluttered when Sarah and Parker parked themselves in the rear of the Knight Bus, and when Sarah peeked into its interior:

And my heart flutters when looking at the following picture of Sarah and me with Hogsmeade in the background. Erika took it after Sarah purchased the sorting hat with her birthday money (thank you Grammy and Grandma!):

Sarah is not without her faults (who is?) but she is also not without her merits, and I love her to the moon and back.

Sarah Belle, no matter what, you will always be my Angel Pie.