Thursday, February 28, 2019

Fall from Grace

With the passing of my father, I haven't been in the mood to write, but after some events of the last few weeks, I have something to say.  First, a little story.

I'm Catholic (disclaimer, you do or don't do whatever it is you do or don't want to do). Occasionally, like on February 16th, I'll go to the Saturday evening service, especially if I want to sleep in on Sunday.  It's a great part of being Catholic.  As the church service began, the procession to the alter had a scary moment.  One of the men who was doing a reading became dizzy as he climbed the stairs.  He was medium height, with a bit of girth.  My guess is he's easily 250 pounds.  That 250 pounds started to fall backwards.

My priest, Father Bill, is not a large man.  In his 60's, and with some health issues of his own, my guess would be he's a light 170 pounds.  He saw the gentlemen stumbling backwards ahead of him, and without even hesitating he rushed forward to try to catch him.  Physics wasn't on his side, as the larger man tumbled backwards, caught the priest about about mid level, and, like a bowling ball, knocked him and a few others rushing to help in various directions.

The good news is no one was hurt.  The man informed us all he was on a medication which occasionally makes him dizzy and it just so happened he got dizzy right as he stepped up onto the top of the stairs.  Father Bill was okay too.  He looked a little shaken, but he was quickly back into his good spirits.

Bill never hesitated.  He ran towards the falling man, trying to catch him with zero concern for his own well being.  Moments like this are a reminder of why I'm Catholic, why I like to believe in the positivity and love which my religion is supposed to be about.  If you're falling, they'll try to catch you.

This is why it's so sad to see the far right Evangelical's version of Christianity.  They've purged out all  of Jesus' compassion and caring, and scream how Christian teachings have molded to their individual political beliefs (regardless of how little piety their beliefs embody), self validating their embracing of anti-Christian things.

Today, Mike Lindell, the FAR RIGHT head of the Minnesota based My Pillow company, showed up at CPAC, claiming God anointed Trump to win in 2016.  It doesn't matter most of Trump's policies go directly against Jesus' teaching; seriously, they are the ABSOLUTE OPPOSITE of what Jesus told us to do.  It doesn't matter Trump has had multiple affairs against his third wife; including hooking up with a porn star while cheating on his mistress while cheating on Melania right after she gave birth.  And it doesn't matter Trump never goes to church.  Seriously, Trump DOES NOT GO TO CHURCH!  These people (the same people who insisted a near weekly visitor to church in former President Barack Obama was actually a secret Muslim pretending to be Christian!) just don't care about reality.  They're so desperate to feel as if they're right, they'll ignore the blinding evidence to the contrary smacking them repeatedly in the head (mocking the handicapped, threatening to sexually assault a married woman, his failure at helping people wiped out by natural disasters, baby prisons, his constant insults and unacceptable online behavior, losing THOUSANDS of children Trump had ripped away from their parents at the border, and then shrugging their shoulders when their horrific mistake was exposed).

This blind worship is the real reason people are leaving Christianity.  Far right Evangelicals are determined to make Christianity bow to their political beliefs. When you purge the love, compassion, peace and humanity out of Christianity, and then edit down the remainder of the Bible to fit a specific narrative, it makes a product which isn't welcoming or inspiring.  It pushes people away.  The only people left are the ones who claim to love the Bible, but who have never really read it.  They only want their political opinions validated, and the far right Evangelical version of Jesus (hate others you don't like, Jesus loves guns, needy people are just lazy, never welcome in strangers from strange lands, discrimination is biblical, worship money) gives them validation.

I have zero doubt most far right Evangelicals would try to help the falling man, but if they knew the man was gay, or if they knew the man was an undocumented immigrant, or if they knew the person falling had had an abortion, would they still try to catch them?  I honestly feel many of them would allow the person to fall, and afterwards, as they tried to hide their snickering, they'd preach about how bad they felt, how this was Jesus punishing them, and they'll pray for them.

Before far right Evangelical guy comes at me and screams "how dare you," I'm not the one who's caused myself and many others to think this way, YOU are.  The far right is killing my religion, and I've had enough.  Far right Evangelicals have become heretics, and heretics like to think they're divine, even though they're hopelessly lost.

If someone is falling in front of me, I hope I'll have the courage and speed to catch them, regardless of whomever they are.

Friday, February 22, 2019

The Friday Link for 2/22/19

I'm sad.  See my previous post for details.

Short and sweet this week.  Here's a great compilation of all of the winners from the Best Song category of the Oscars.  A lot of great songs.  I found it interesting that as we had this debate over the holidays about 'Baby it's Cold Outside,' the song is actually from a movie and it won the Oscar.

I went to a wedding once where the song during the service was 'The Morning After.'  I leaned over to a friend and said, "Am I crazy or is this the song from the Poseidon Adventure, where the ship is turned upside down by a tidal wave and kills most people on board?"  They're still married.

Have a nice weekend everyone.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019


My father, Charles B. McNeil, has passed away.  He was a great Minnesotan.

Born in 1929, he lived to a month shy of his 90th birthday.  I will always remember the laughter he and my mother generated together.  He raised 7, SEVEN, kids and they have all been successful in life.  He was an outstanding hunter, an amazing fisherman and a top notch all around outdoorsman.  He has a master dog owner and trainer.  He was a fine chef, the greatest grill cook I've ever seen.  He taught me to love Minnesota's traditional foods, like pasties, wild rice, wild game, and shore lunch. He made the best chicken I've ever had.

He found great pleasure in the simplest things, teaching me to enjoy life as it occurred around me.  He loved nature.  He taught me the value of hard work with intention, how to do the job right the first time.  He was always the hardest worker, only leaving the heavy lifting to me when he himself could no longer do it.  He taught me flowers always brighten up a room.  He loved sports, especially hockey, but never placed them on a higher perch than they needed to be.

He never stopped trying to understand me, even when I was beyond understanding.  He loved my wife as if she was his own daughter.  He always perked up with my kids, his grandkids.  They loved his stories and idolized him.  He taught me to respect the past generations.  He was a wonderful son.  He taught me what it meant to love your family.

He was incredibly intelligent, and always made me prove my point. He had a dry humor which was usually matched with his charming smile and laugh.  He was a magnificent father and a great man. I was lucky to have him in my life.  He will indeed be missed.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The Friday Link for 2/15/19

To start off, how about a great movie trailer.  What happens when a guy wakes up and discovers the Beatles never existed.  He remembers the songs, but no one else does.  Good concept!  This trailer makes me want to see 'Yesterday.'

Next up, Bad Lip Reading takes on the State Of The Union Speech.  Let's be honest, if Trump actually said any of these things I don't think anyone would be shocked.

And finally tonight, Samantha Bee talks about the Green New Deal, and of course the psychotic far right reaction to it.  Hey, we're only trying to save the planet...

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Newspapers Kill Themselves

Most of you probably missed a barn burner of a story which ran in the Minneapolis Star Tribune's sports section on Tuesday, and by doing so, you missed a prime example of why newspapers are dying.  Their committing suicide.

The article was a simple fluff piece on high school boys basketball, covering the rematch between Edina and Hopkins.  The article was clearly written from a pro-Edina viewpoint.  Edina is probably the wealthiest town in the state, and where they've dominated in prep ice hockey, they've fallen behind in high school basketball.  The story's main point was how the Edina team would be going for a sweep of Hopkins on Tuesday night, the top ranked team in state.

So far nothing special.  The article talked about how really bad Edina was, having lost to every other ranked team they've played in their conference, but this game Tuesday night was a glimmer of hope on what has been a disappointing Edina season.  Earlier in the season, Edina pulled off the upset at home, knocking off Hopkins, setting up a story line for the game, albeit a incredibly weak one.  For the record, Hopkins manhandled Edina in the rematch on Tuesday night, a score you had a hard time finding in Wednesday's paper.  The Star Tribune, which had featured the game mightily in the previous days paper, didn't even include the score in the prep sports round up, only in the tiny print which listed all the statewide scores.

At this point I can hear you all saying "AND..."  Okay, so let me backtrack a little bit to when I was a kid.

When I was young, the newspapers were far thicker and the content was far richer.  When I was reading the newspaper in high school, it was at the beginning the sales fueled downward trend of quality and integrity, a trend which today has left most papers a hollow shell of their former selves (the ones which are still even printing).  And the 1980's papers were nothing when compared to the newspapers from the decades earlier.  Still the 1980's paper had extensive news, opinion, and information.  These papers still had some guts.

Back then, this fluff story on Edina would've never even been written. The Star Tribune on Tuesday told us the Edina team wasn't very good, unworthy of the column space they gave them, but yet they gave it to them anyway.  The pre-game story warranted a tiny blurb about a revenge game, minus the pro-Edina slant.  The next day, the 80's paper would've published a recap of the #1 team in state winning a game, but in 2019, with Edina being on the losing end, that specific point had to be buried.

Papers today, whether it's the sports, news, opinion, or variety section, filter their writing through a prism.  The goal is to write stories which will make the paper appeal to the wealthy communities, and, in turn, maybe encourage the business owners who live in those wealthy communities to possibly buy ads in the paper.  They write fluff pieces which have little importance to anyone but a handful of people in the specific suburb, making the paper FAR less interesting to the average reader.

The Star Tribune not only created a story out of thin air, they also went the other way.  If the Edina boys would've pulled off the upset, the Star Tribune would've had a major story with good visibility, guaranteed.  Instead, Edina lost, so the final score had to be buried, forcing people interested in the number one team in the state to have to get their magnifying glass out to see the tiny print.

The modern newspaper writes fluff pieces with limited appeal.  They don't write stories with neutrality, instead they focus on a blatant favoritism geared to the specific communities where the ad money lives.  And when the news is negative for those same ad money suburbs, they bury it.

Newspapers can't fix themselves at this point.  They will die because they're circling a smaller and smaller narrow demographic, sacrificing the news, both good and bad, to drive their specific narrative; "please buy ads with us!"  I just don't see how they pull themselves out of their death spiral.  It would take them putting out a newspaper not seen in decades, and I frankly don't think most newsrooms even have the slightest idea how to do that anymore.

Yes I know, it is only a high school basketball game story Matt.  You're right, but sometimes the little stories show you how far our print media has fallen.

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Friday Link for 2/8/19

For this Friday, we revisit nuclear annihilation!

When I was in high school back in 1983, there was a "for God's sake, maybe we should realize how deadly and dangerous nuclear weapons are" genre coming out of Hollywood.  I think a lot of it had to do with Reagan, and how freaking flippant he was about suggesting the US would just nuke the other guys before they could nuke us.  There is a reason why Ronald Reagan became Ronnie Ray-Gun!

The most recognizable entity in this genre was 'The Day After,' the star studded nuclear apocalypse movie which came with a warning:  "These images might be too terrifying for some viewers."  You know what else is terrifying?  Dying instantly in a inferno blast or dying slowly form nuclear poisoning.  Republicans HATED 'The Day After.'  How dare you inform us of what our nuclear buildup will eventually lead to!

Another entry from this genre is the Friday Link.  'Special Bulletin' was a fairly well done nuclear disaster film, done in the form of breaking news on the fictitious RBS network.  You see a lot of recognizable faces on the 'broadcast,' and some elements are WAY too formulated, but I remember this movie having a far bigger impact on me and my friends at the time.  I think it was because it felt like you were watching an actual news report.  Goodbye Charleston!

Thank goodness we finally woke up from all of that and...wait a second...Trump's undoing WHAT?!?

Let's hope we don't have to revisit this genre in the future.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The More Things Change...

Last night was the State Of The Union speech and many Democrats this morning were beaming.  The showing by the Democrats, especially many of the freshman women, was the main story of the evening.  By doing nothing outside of sitting with disapproving looks on their faces they controlled the room.  It was an undeniable victory for the Democrats.

Another thing happened yesterday, something with far less of a positive outcome for the Democrats, showing us the frighteningly familiar trajectory the Democrats are currently on.  In Minnesota Senate District 11 (MNSD11), there was a special election to fill a seat which the Democrats have held for decades.  Last night, the Democratic candidate lost to the Republican.  I'll be the first to admit weather did not play nice, but if this race would've happened in November, the Democrats would've won MNSD11 by 10+ points, easy.  The momentum Democrats had coming out of November 2018 is gone, replaced by a self congratulatory love fest, the same exact self-congratuslatorism which derailed the Democrats after 2008.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Let me break down MNSD11 a little.

The MNSD11 seat became open because Governor Tim Walz appointed the Democratic Senator to a position in his Administration.  Some people have been critical of Walz choosing a Democrat who was in a vulnerable district, but MNSD11 was won by the DFL in 2016 with 55%.  The northern part of the district is Duluth suburbs, all with a deep blue slant.  Walz should have the ability to choose whomever he wants for his Administration, not just Democrats from safe Democratic districts, but even so, this was a district the Democrats have held for a LONG time.  It was supposedly a safe DFL seat.

The Duluth News Tribune chimed in on the race, misrepresenting the Republican as the union choice.  The Republican, Jason Rarick had a total of four union endorsements, while his opponent, Stu Lourey, the son of the outgoing Senator Tony Lourey, had 11 listed on his website alone, nearly three times as many.  Regardless, the Duluth News Tribune presented Rarick as the union choice, a characterization (along with their gushing endorsement) which helped the Republicans.

I do think there was a level of burnout on the Lourey family holding that seat.  Tony Lourey won the seat after his mother Becky Lourey decided not to run again in 2006.  She initially won her seat in 1990.  It does become somewhat of a head scratcher how the local DFL'ers didn't see the potential danger of a single family trying to hold onto a seat for 30 years, but then again, the name had been successful for a long time.

The limited union support the Republican got also hurt the Minnesota DFL.  The pro-Rarick unions seemed to be out in force door knocking for the Republican in SD11, negating other unions who were door knocking for the DFL.  If you're like me, you might be scratching you head trying to figure out how ANY union would support a Republican in this day and age, especially considering their goal is to wipe out all unions.  I talked with one of the union heads on my radio show and he defended the union's decision.  His main point has the most validity; the union voted to endorse the Republican, and union management won't stop what membership wants.  That's fair.  It's crazy to see people vote for their own firing squad, but if they want to, it's on them.

The union head said he had assurances from Rarick he would not push legislation which would outright destroy unions (such as Right To Work), but Rarick expressed this after he stated on a 2014 Chamber questionnaire he'd work to destroy the unions if he got the chance.  At best he's lying and/or inconsistent (hence untrustworthy), AND he does represent the Republicans, who've single handedly brought unions to their knees over the last 40 years.  The Republicans want to kill all unions and all workers rights.  That's their policy, and their proud of it!  I feel endorsing an inconsistent Republican because they'll 'think about whether or not they'll kill your union' is a risk you shouldn't take.

The union could've endorsed the Democrat, the candidate who'd preserve the union guaranteed, someone looking to strengthen unions, make sure workers make a good salary, good benefits and good healthcare, but they picked unicorns and rainbows.  My guess; there are a lot of people in the union who 'relate' to what the MAGA hat really represents.  All they were looking for was the barest minimum of assurances their Republican vote was a flimsy sliver of 'pro-union.'  I'll be paying attention to Rarick's voting record to determine how 'pro-union' he really is.

But at the end of the day, the weather, false anti-nepotism, the Duluth News Tribune and the minority of unions didn't cost the Democrats MNSD11.  The Democrats did.

You may dislike Republicans, but one thing they do which I respect is vote.  They ALWAYS vote.  Sure, their true motivations might be draped in an ugliness veil, but they show up every election, no matter if it's presidential, off year, odd year, local, school board, or special.  They always do.  What decides elections today is one simple metric:  How many Democrats show up.  What happened in MNSD11 reminds me a heck of a lot of the Bloomington area MN House special election from a few years back, where the Republicans picked up a seat in a +10 Democratic district, mainly because the Democrats were non-existent.

Democrats have a really bad habit.  When they finally do show up for an election, they become enamored in the victory celebration, lavishing themselves with self induced pats on the backs, as they bask in the blue ribbon they've anointed themselves.  They imagine their victory as the end of the movie, marching heads high into the distance, arm in arm with all the rest of the Democrats who showed up, and...roll credits!  Same exact thing happened in 2008.  As the Democrats were celebrating, 2010 happened, dooming this country to ten years of darkness.

The Democrats all showed up in 2018.  It was a tremendous showing, one which destroyed the fixed game the Republicans had created.  The MNSD11 race was the first test of this supposed newfound Democratic political resurgence, and we failed miserably.  No one cared. No one showed up. There was no urgency.  There was no fire.  The Democrats were still patting themselves on the back, impressing themselves with tales of 2018, as they created new social media memes to crack themselves up.  In turn they ignored an easy lay up of a victory.

Meanwhile the Republicans convinced a few unions to fight for them, got 'help' from a newspaper who misinterpreted reality, and banked on Democrats staying at home, which they did!  Expect this same exact strategy to be played out over the next two years.

Democrats, this is not a one time deal.  This is not a feel good movie.  This is not a 'one and done' situation.  This is not a 50 meter dash.  It's a lifelong endeavor.  This is EVERY freaking election, no matter how big the race.  If we don't change the Democrat's dynamic at it's core, getting Democrats to act like every one of these elections matter, any gains we made in 2018 will be a faint memory, drowned out by Republicans popping champaign corks for the next 4 years.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Five Years

Five years ago I gave up alcohol.  I've never regretted the decision.

Alcoholic is a wide ranging term.  It can refer to the person who's hopelessly consumed by alcohol, incapable of anything outside of their quest for more liquor, but it can also be used to describe me. I was a normal guy who just liked having a drink every once in awhile, then every few days, then every night, then some afternoons.  The natural stresses of life started to pile up and alcohol was an easy device to mellow me out, until I started looking forward to the next drink instead of enjoying the drink I just had.  I didn't get busted for DWI or get fired from my job, but I knew if I continued down the path I was on, it would only be a matter of time.  I made the decision to quit on my own.

Nothing is ever so linear. There were other reasons my alcohol intake was a problem, but I'll leave those for another day.

Giving up alcohol is not easy, especially in a country which seems to be trying to pour the booze down your gullet.  We're so programmed to want booze we don't realize how drinking is sold to us as 'a necessary part of your lives.'  Tough day at work?  How about a few drinks!  Relationship problems?  Alcohol will turn your frown upside down!  Having a get together with friends?  Well everyone should bring a six pack!

Holidays are the toughest.  Most us us have memories of a nice glass of wine with the meal, or a hot toddy with dessert.  It was the hardest hurdle I had to jump to finally get past alcohol's deceptive nature.

Sports pushes an astounding amount of liquor on it's viewers.  Drinks at the game with liquor ads everywhere you look, the near demand to go drink the game away at a sports bar disguised as a family friendly venue, and the broadcast itself, drenched in liquor ads, each one implying good times and hot fun are only a drink away.  You don't realize how much liquor is marketed towards you in sports until you quit drinking.  You're gobsmacked when you finally take inventory of it.

I want to be VERY clear; I do not think people who drink are bad people.  On the contrary, drink up if you don't have a problem with addiction.  That's your right, and alcohol has been part of our culture since the first groups of humans started to get together in communities.  But if alcohol is becoming one of the more important things in your life, then you probably need to step away.

The decision to quit was mine.  I woke up in late summer of 2013 and realized if I didn't stop drinking, it was only a matter of time before I lost.  I don't consider myself a particularly vicious alcoholic, but it still took me months to completely stop (outside of communion at church).  I knew some things had to be done, such as removing alcohol from the house and not getting myself into social situations where booze was around, tempting me (there are some friends I don't see nearly as much as I used to), but it had to be done.  Even so, and with a very supportive family, it took me six months to finally be clear.

Let me put forward something to anyone thinking they need to sober up.  I didn't quit with Alcoholics Anonymous.  There are a lot of ways to quit drinking and AA is only one of them.  I didn't go to a fancy expensive treatment clinic, nor did I enter into extensive therapy and group sessions.  I did this my own way, and you can too, regardless of whether you embrace AA or if you take a different path.

AA is a fine organization, and for some people it's a literal life saver.  I tried it three times, and each time I had a horrific experience which only made things worse.  It also bothered me greatly when I would talk with a recovering AA alcoholic, and I'd mention I wasn't sure if AA would work for me personally, they'd give me the AA ultimatum; 'Either you go do AA with me, or stop bothering me!'  That's not a support ideology I agree with.  AA works for many people, but it's one of many options.

I had a neighbor who was recovering with AA who did help, never judging me for not swearing to the AA code.   Larry gave me some great guidance, and I went to a sensational counselor, Bob, who taught me two codes which helped me greatly.  The first one is simple:

  • Love yourself
  • Love others in your life
  • And have others love you in return

I've been lucky enough to have all three of those from the beginning.  Surrounding yourself with people who want to see you get better makes quitting a lot easier.

The other thing which Bob told me to do is to always have the following three things in my life:

  • Exercise, or at least moderate physical activity
  • Embrace whatever you believe in as a higher power (or for atheists, find something you enjoy which gives your life a smile, and do it on a regular basis)
  • Regularly talk with someone about your recovery.

The last one is so important.  It's never good to go through life avoiding talking about your main struggles.  I talk with my counselor on a regular basis (Bob retired last year and so now I meet with another fine counselor, David), and I talk with my kids on a regular basis too.  It's been very important letting them have a path of communication to me, giving them an outlet.  It's important for them to see you working to make yourself better.  It's made me a better dad.

Final thoughts on this.  If you are drinking too much:

You're making some really horrible choices, you probably don't realize it.

Ask yourself if drinking is an unhealthy vehicle you use to avoid the uncomfortable things in life.

You will be shocked at how much better your mind works in the months after you quit drinking.

You'll be healthier almost immediately after quitting.

Quit and you'll save an insane amount of money.

I'm done preaching.  Go live your own life, one that I hope makes you smile.  Mine does.

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Friday Link for 2/1/19

Three political videos for you this week.  Be careful for some rougher language.

Let's start off with Ellen Page's raw, real and righteous plea on the Stephen Colbert show.  The real fireworks start at about 6:50, but the interview as a whole is pretty solid.  We need more people to call out  this insane attempt to push a false debate upon the American people about whether or not this country has taken a nasty racist and bigoted turn.  It has, thanks to Trump and Pence.  When they said 'Make America Great Again,' they were winking at the worst of humanity.

Next up is an amazingly well done video from Louisiana where they talk about how the Republicans tax handouts to major corporations has led to a massive shortfall of tax dollars the community needs for it's own citizens.  Yet once again another example of how true Republican ideals being implemented are specifically designed to help the extremely wealthy at the expense of the vast majority of the people.

Finally, how the heck did I not know about Randy Rainbow?  His Tango video (which I posted on social media earlier this week) is a hoot, but here's a catchy little number about Trump's favorite things.

Way to end with a smile on your face.  Patriots over the Rams 27 - 21.  Have a great weekend everyone!