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Posted by on Jun 27, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Personal, Politics | 4 comments

My Monthly Shit List (June 2017)



I’m rolling out a new feature certain to amuse, shock, and confuse.

Let’s call this — my monthly “Shit List.”

This list will include rankings, from 1 to 10, of the people, places, and things that most piss me off at this moment.  My list is subject to monthly revision based on (in no particular order) — wars, plagues, gambling losses, cocktail consumption, and mainstream media brainwashing.

A drum roll please….




[1]  President Donald Trump

President Trump is likely to remain atop my monthly “Shit List” for quite a long time — at least until one of two things happens:  (a) He’s impeached, or (b) Adam Sandler releases another embarrassingly unfunny movie and seizes the shameful pinnacle of the #1 spot — whichever comes first.  Trump’s daily carnival of contrived chaos might be comical were it not so consequential.  Based on just five months in office, Trump is likely to go down in history as King Kong in the demise of American democracy.


[2]  Songwriters Who Sing About Maritime Disasters

I’m fed up with folksy three-chord songs about sinking ships and drunken sailors reminiscing about some sad old wreck buried at the bottom of the sea.  I don’t want to hear this!  Life is already depressing enough without listening to some a whiny-ass wanna’ be pirate singing about a rusted relic running into an unexpected storm, sinking to the bottom, now polluting the bay.  Never mind torturing suspected terrorists at GTMO with blasting heavy metal music.  Put on a Gordon Lightfoot album and the terrorist will be squirming like a canary.  “Yes, I admit being a member of Al Queda — now please, don’t make me listen to ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” again!  This is a phobia of mine, every bit as queasy as spiders and killer clowns.  I don’t like songs about maritime disasters.


[3]  Racist Cops

I’m tired of seeing young men of color gunned down without proper cause by law enforcement, followed by our courts’ failure to punish such gross injustices.  This might be the most important issue of our time, one which threatens to destabilize our society.  Racist legal practices must addressed by the establishment before mass civil unrest erupts (and mark my words — it will).  Consider the multitude of shocking well-documented cases where citizens are treated quite differently based on race (YouTube has many videos, including this ONE).  Comedian-activist Dick Gregory said it best:  “If dogs were being shot down by police in the same numbers as young Black men in this country, angry White people would be storming city hall.”


[4] Omaha High-Low Split Players (at the Orleans Casino — Las Vegas)

The charred souls of bitter, broken-down men largely populate Omaha High-Low Split tables infested with a chronic dreariness.  These crusty, crabby, cantankerous shards of once-productive members of society have become devoid of any pulse of humanity.  If these fossilized Omaha players weren’t wasting away the final vestiges of their miserable lives by spending 65 hours a week hunched over poker tables squeezing out a measly $1.62 an hour plus comps, they’d probably be writing depressing songs about shipwrecks instead.  Low-stakes Omaha players = miserable miserly malthropes.


[5]   Snooty Waiters

I’m sick of being treated like dirt at fancy restaurants.  The snooty charade usually begins with the forced up-sell on bottled water.  “Tap or sparkling, Sir?”  Then, after listening to the waiter gab on for three full minutes describing the steamed carrots I get looked down at like a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of his shoe when I dare ask for the price of the nightly special.  Listen you too-lazy-to-get-a-real-job pest — you interrupt me while I’m speaking to my dinner guests to ask if everything is okay (if things aren’t okay — wouldn’t I let you know?), and then you disappear like magician’s white rabbit when I want to order an extra serving of those carrots you talked me into.  Hey my bow-tied pal, you’re not Ivy League professor lecturing on constitutional law.  You’re a fucking waiter.  So, zip the attitude.


[6]  Fanboy Sycophants 

Celebrities don’t know jack shit about much of anything, except perhaps what they’re really good at — like actors (with movies) and athletes (with sports).  But ask them about anything else, and their opinions are just as worthless as yours and mine.  So then, why does everyone go dick fucking gaga when a celebrity posts something on Twitter, often on a complex topic they’ve never taken a second to study?  Please stop it, people.  Save the blind-faith ass-kissing for rare occasions when your hero actually does something truly remarkable, or says something original.  Poker fanboy sycophants are among the worst.  Any tweet with a Day One/First Break chip count with 1,600 “likes” is grounds for a long eye roll and an immediate block.

[7]  The San Francisco Giants

These miserable pricks have cost me a fortune during the last few weeks.  There’s a guy I know betting with me (no juice, so it’s legal) who’s has been riding the anti-Giants gravy trainwreck since the start of June (they’re currently 27-51, the worst record in baseball — and have lost 6 games in a row).  A few nights ago, thought I might have a shot at a win.  Shitty Giants were up 6-3 late in the game, then the Braves (the Braves!) scored a touchdown — 7 goddamned runs in the bottom of the whatever to win the game 10-6.  7 runs!  I’m bleeding money on the Giants.  More like hemorrhaging rent money.  Bastards!


[8]  Democratic Party Leadership / Establishment

Is there a more clueless gaggle of ineptitude than the current leadership of the Democratic Party?  Republicans have all but gift wrapped the entire ballgame to Democrats, but they still somehow can’t win a meaningful election.  Democratic positions on every major issue are more popular with the general electorate (health care, foreign policy, taxation, gun control, etc.).  Democrats also raise plenty of money.  Democrats have the perfect boogeyman to run against in the White House.  Nonetheless, they keep on losing in embarrassing fashion.  Re-electing feeble fossils to leadership posts, running lame, gutless candidates who are often ashamed to stand up for the progressive agenda, overemphasizing divisive issues, and generally behaving like the San Francisco Giants of politics — all reveal it’s way past time to clean House.  And, the Senate.  Move aside, losers.  You blew it.  Time for a new generation of voices and ideas.


[9]  Absentee Homeowners

Las Vegas has become a haven of hell for lazy absentee home owners, mostly rich fucks living somewhere in California, who slumlord out their second and third “investment homes” while letting the neighborhood turn to total shit.  They try charging California rental prices and then when the properties sit empty for months, squatters move in, tear the place apart, and turn the street into a ghetto.  I know this firsthand, because I’ve seen it happen.  The city should enforce much stricter codes on upkeep and seize property when laws are violated.  I think absentee homeowners (a nice word for slumlords) are scum.


[10]  Shitty Summer Movies

Summer movies are shit.  Wizards, superheroes, cartoons, car chases, skull-fucking mindless comedies, talking machines — I don’t care for summer movies catering to 9-year-olds who infest cinemaplexes like larvae buried in the Everglades.  Since when did adults abdicate our rightful role as guardians of the cinematic arts and allow corn-syrup slurping kids to completely take over Hollywood?  I can’t wait for September — which means the return of decent, thought-provoking French movies with subtitles no one can understand.




Furniture Manufacturers

Those of you who follow me on Facebook already know this story:

Marieta saw some nice new furniture on the Internet and decided to order a sofa and love seat for the living room. The old stuff was about ten years old, so she said it had to go. It’s direct from the factory in North Carolina and they said it would take three weeks for delivery.


So, at 8 am today some bug-ass clown bangs on the front door without any fucking notice at all and announces “YOUR SOFAS ARE HERE!” Gee, couldn’t we get a phone call first? I’m standing there like a dick in nothing but shorts and sweating like a beached whale and have no time to take a shower, and now I’ve got to fucking shove furniture all over the downstairs living room. But hey — the sofas are here, so I go ahead and roll with it.

So, off come the sofas from the panel truck and they even unwrap them for us. Instantly, I see these sofas are monsters and realize there’s a problem. The goddamned things won’t fit through the front door!


Fact: 95 percent of all front doors in the United States are 40 inches wide. Yet, this cock mashing sofa clocks in at like 44 inches! Who are they making sofas for — the goddamned Pope!!! ???


How can a reputable furniture company not make stuff that will fit through a front door? It’s not like we live in some cramped-ass gerbil-cage in Manhattan. We live in a 2-story house! We somehow got refrigerators, stoves, king-sized mattresses, 65-inch TVs, and a piano in the house THROUGH THE FRONT DOOR — but we can’t get in a fucking sofa!

I’m flabbergasted that a company would do this to people.

So, anyway…..

The two Hispanic guys just look at the door and shake their heads. Garage entry is even smaller, as the access door through the kitchen is 38 inches. Back yard has access, but the sliding-glass door barely opens to about 39 inches.

We’re fucked!

So, the delivery guys basically say, “you’re on your own.” Fine, screw their tip. I mumble to myself — “That saved me a twenty spot, now get lost. Scram!”

So, right now, I’m four inches on the wrong side of being too big and I’ve got a brand new gorgeous sofa and matching love seat sitting out in the fucking front yard, exposed to the blazing flames of the sun, with no place to go. I have no idea what to do, other than stick them in the garage which will make for some very expensive cat scratching posts.

Screw ordering furniture over the Internet! Buyer beware!


ESports Gamers

I think “esports” is total bullshit.  It’s a joke.

Bunch of punk-ass kids with no social skills living in their parents’ basements jittering on computers all day and night like overdosing dope-fiends. All that’s missing are the black spoons and Bic lighters.

Esports is crap.


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Posted by on Jun 25, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 2 comments

The Foreign Invasion We’re Powerless to Stop



There are lots of bad guys out there in the world.

Many of these bad guys pose us serious danger.  They aim to invade our shores.  They try to infect our people.  They want to kill us.

These bad guys have no allegiances.  They don’t respect our borders.  They don’t discriminate as to who they target.  They go after everyone.  People of all ages, races, and genders are vulnerable.  Rich and poor are equally at risk.  No one is safe.

Constructing expensive border walls can’t stop them.  Neither can immigration bans — illegal or otherwise.  Whether we approve or not of their arrival, swarms of uninvited guests are coming to America, by the trillions and trillions.

They aren’t just headed to our cities and neighborhoods.  They’re not only living right next door to you.  They’re inside your home.  Many could even been inside your body.  Right at this instant.


Let’s talk more about defending ourselves against these dangerous invaders.

President Donald Trump’s first federal budget intends to cut funding for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) — by 17 percent.  What does this mean?  Well, that’s 17 percent less people and less time we would dedicate to studying an array of different viruses and other harmful pathogens which can potentially kill us.  Cutting the CDC’s budget means picking and choosing which diseases to fight, while ignoring others — at our peril.

Trump’s budget also aims to slash the National Institute of Health (NIH) — by 18 percent.  Let’s put this into perspective:  This is a federal agency which receives about the same amount of money each year in all of its funding as it takes to build one single aircraft carrier (about $16 billion).  Yet, odd as it seems, NIH may be one of the best returns on investment in all of government.  Various studies have shown a rate of return of up to 40 percent per year — by reducing the economic cost of illness inside the United States.  Studies have also found that 15 of the 21 drugs with the highest therapeutic impact on society were discovered, in part, via NIH and/or its research grants.  As of 2015 NIH-supported research discovered more than 160 new FDA-approved drugs and vaccines.  That’s one hell of a good return on “government spending.”

But this is pale in comparison to the draconian cuts the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is about to endure.  The federal agency in charge of keeping our food safe to eat, and prescription drugs safe to take, could become all but paralyzed as protector of the peoples’ health and welfare.  Consider this — the FDA is the policeman against snake oil salesmen.  Their job is to go after snake oil salesmen and put them in jail.  Cut its budget by a third, and well — we can expect lots more snake oil salesmen.

There is no debate among those in the know.  Cuts to the CDC, NIH, and FDA are unsafe, unwise, and economically unsound.  They could even be catastrophic.  You think funding science is costly?  Imagine what it would cost to contain the outbreak of an infectious disease in this country.  Isn’t it wise to spend relative pennies now in order to save would could be billions of dollars later, if the worst happens?   [READ MORE BELOW]

Even some conservative Republicans are disturbed by President Trump’s proposals.  Consider the voice of Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who serves as Chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing the CDC.   Rep. Cole said, “What CDC does is probably more important to the average American than, in a sense, the Defense Department.”

By the way, defense spending will increase under Trump’s budget by a whopping $54 billion.

Cutting budgets to CDC, NIH, and the FDA isn’t just a war on science.  It’s a war on knowledge.  It’s a war on all Americans.


A few years ago, everyone was terrified — not by North Korea or ISIS — as much as an invisible alien known as the Ebola virus.  We were all so scared that several elected officials proposed quarantining entire regions of the world to stop the spread of the disease.  It was like a horror movie.

Then, wise people spoke up and our government stepped in.  World health organizations answered the call and became the heroes of humanity, every bit as brave as those men and women in uniform who go off to battle and wage war for the preservation of our way of life.  Ebola might not have been eradicated.  But it certainly isn’t the threat to us now, as it was back in 2014.

Too all those who disparage the noble functions of government — be thankful.  Temper your criticism.  We’re probably still alive right now because of the good deeds of government and the many extraordinary people who have put their own lives on the line to learn more about the deadly invaders who want to attack us.

Now, facing yet another intruder — this time something called the Zika virus — President Trump aims to cut the federal agencies and international programs best suited to fight this serious threat.  We are cutting our first line of defense.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is madness.


Intentional or not, humankind continues to meddle with the natural forces of the universe.  On occasion, this cannot but accelerate evolutionary pathways to our self-destruction.

For every Ebola or Zika case out there, there are millions more metastasizing, including viruses which we haven’t even identified yet.  Unfortunately, this will remain a perpetual conflict.  We simply can’t afford to take a year, or a month, or even a day off.  There’s no such thing as a vacation.  While we sleep, they evolve and grow.  While we slash government budgets designed to fight them, they continue to form new colonies which are increasingly stubborn and resistant to known remedies.

History has taught us what happens when pandemics rage out of control.  It’s not pretty.  A century ago, the last global plague known as the Spanish Flu ravaged across every continent.  The disease killed 55 million — three times the number of deaths in all of World War I, which preceded the Spanish Flu outbreak by a few years.  We may think of wars in terms of human conflicts.  But they can be between all of life’s forces.

Today, pandemics pose an even greater threat to us.  While science (when funded properly and allowed to enrich us with new discoveries) has made amazing advances in fighting many grave diseases, those which evade our control are even more dangerous.  Compared to era of the Spanish Flu outbreak, the world’s population has since tripled.  We’re now packed closer together in densely-populated cities.  We exchange food and goods with far greater frequency.  International travel has become an everyday occurrence.  Before, a virus that might have taken weeks to spread, can contaminate another continent with hours.


Liberals and conservatives don’t agree on much these days.  But we do agree on one thing.  Government’s primary role should be providing for the national defense, against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.  Today, some of these enemies are on our own hands, inside the meats and the produce we consume, or carried my common mosquitoes.

Government must assume this vital role in protecting us.  It might not be a profitable (although the unintended consequences of increased research often leads to new inventions and discoveries).   The ultimate benefit to fighting something so tiny that it’s nearly invisible to the eye might not always be appreciated, nor even tangible.  Yet, this fight (I argue) is a Constitutional responsibility every bit at vital as maintaining an army and navy to protect the homeland.

President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to science, and particularly those critically important agencies which serve as our front line of defense against pandemic invasion is just the latest poorly conceived, reckless, anti-intellectual delirium by a White House gone totally haywire — by a leader so personally bereft of caring and compassion that we must wonder if brash defiance of all reason is yet another calculated Molotov Cocktail carefully tossed onto the giant bonfire of a burning nation.  Indeed, there are even some fears this could be the dirty work of key presidential adviser Steve Bannon, who has openly vowed to “deconstruct the administrative state.”  His fangs are all over this policy.  For President Trump to go along with such a deranged permutation which abandons one of the most basic functions government is treasonous.  This isn’t merely a deconstruction of bureaucracy.  It could be suicidal.

If and when the next deadly disease comes, and it will, we won’t look to the media, nor celebrities, nor corporations, nor the pretty and the wealthy, nor our elected officials, nor the military to protect us.  Instead, we will look to science.  

That’s right — science.  

We will look to those nerdy men and women wearing lab coats, the kids who were once the anti-life of the party.  We will hope and pray that when that deadly virus infects us or inflicts someone we know or love, that somehow while we were all busy with our own lives and distractions, that some scientist off somewhere working in anonymity for a paltry salary may have put in a little overtime and come up with the remedy that will save our lives.

President Trump’s proposed budget makes this less likely.



From The Washington Post (May 26, 2017), written by Tom Frieden (CDC Director from 2009 to 2017):


The administration’s budget proposal for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is unsafe, unwise and fiscally irresponsible.

Unsafe.  The proposal undermines CDC’s ability to find, stop and prevent threats to Americans’ health.  I know what this looks like. When I joined the CDC in 1990, Congress had cut the tuberculosis control budget. TB came roaring back, costing billions and killing Americans. Since then we’ve responded to West Nile, H1N1, Ebola, Zika and more. This proposal cuts virtually every program needed to stop such risks.

Unwise.  A proposed block grant hides hundreds of millions of dollars of cuts to programs that protect Americans from cancer, diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. Block-granting undermines the CDC’s ability to help states implement programs proven to save lives and eliminates the opportunity to support communities and states based on need, impact or effectiveness. The proposal also eliminates research centers critical to discovering new ways to prevent diseases that threaten all Americans.

Fiscally irresponsible.  Many CDC programs save $3 or more in health-care costs, and $10 in societal costs, for every dollar spent. Anti-tobacco ads prevent tens of thousands of deaths and reduce health-care costs by hundreds of millions of dollars. Cutting the CDC budget by $1.2 billion could cost Americans more than $15 billion over the next decade.

The CDC should not be a political football.  The CDC is a best buy — money that can be counted on to prevent illness, disability and death and save money.


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Posted by on Jun 21, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Personal | 2 comments

Slow and Furious



While running almost daily over these past five years — I’ve been yelled at, flipped off, and nearly run off the road.  I’ve fallen down flat on my face, busted open a kneecap, and been accosted by mean school children who called me “fatso.”  I’ve been chased by a pack of angry pit bulls.

By my estimate, I’ve run approximately 5,000 miles in six different countries on two continents.  Along my way, I’ve gratuitously dropped perhaps 9,500 F-bombs, some expletives mumbled, others screamed at full volume.  This averages out to nearly two F-bombs per mile of running — double that average when running anywhere in South Florida because of oppressive humidity and playing dodge ball among world’s worst drivers.  Indeed, I’ve learned that fury can be quite the devilish motivation, especially when skirting and sidestepping cars and trucks and forced to constantly be on the lookout for maniacs distracted by smartphones who simply do not see or fail to yield to the doddering 6-foot tall, 225-pound, 55-year-old blob off on the shoulder heaving desperately for air along busy boulevards and tricky avenues mostly lined with speeding traffic.

Fuck running.  But I do love it so.

I can’t explain the contradiction, really.  Aside from the giddy self-satisfaction of enduring the elements of the not-so-great outdoors, often battling the extremes of temperature and topography, the closest sensation I can relate to is that running has become an alternative form of meditation.  One becomes addicted to mental and physical rhythms of the body in motion.  I’ve even perfected the art of dozing off while running, as odd as that seems.  I’m almost never tired nor do I feel worn out after running.  I never ache after running.  I’m more alert and alive than ever.  I only feel tired and listless when — for whatever reason — I miss a run after a day or two.  I ache when I do not run.

I guess in some ways running is a drug.

Today was the hottest day ever in the history of Las Vegas.  Since this city was founded in 1905, that means this was the hottest day ever recorded in 112 years.  Oh, that means the high reached a blistering 117 degrees.

I ran five miles at precisely 4 pm today, right when the temperature peaked at the all-time high.  Yes, this was planned.  This was by design.  If I’m going to run, I’ll run.  If I’m going to sweat, then I won’t candy-ass it by running in the morning when it’s just 98.  I want the full fast and furious version of running to the extreme.

Mind you, this isn’t a sick brag even though I’m a master of sick bragging, but rather a demonstration of what simple dedication and strong willpower can do.  Those who know me best probably know, I’m not particularly motivated nor hard-working most of the time.  But I do make it a personal mission to run about six days a week, no matter what the weather conditions.  This “sacrifice” averages out to about six hours per week, hardly time-consuming given all the time most of us waste doing far less productive (and counterproductive) things in our lives.

The coldest temperature I ever ran in was a bone-chilling 5 degrees once — at South Lake Tahoe.  That run, which lasted only a few miles, nearly killed me.  The trouble was, South Lake Tahoe is at 7,100 feet and running at that high altitude puts tremendous stress on the lungs, especially if you’re not accustomed to the conditions.  I can’t say it did much good to breath in all that cold air either, as I contracted bronchitis and was coughing my head off for the next two weeks.  Yes, I do admit — one can take this running thing to the extreme.

But, for whatever reason, the heat has never bothered me.  I’ve run in 100-degree weather hundreds of times, and never experienced the least bit of discomfort.  Sure, after sweating like a beast I smelled like a farm animal afterward, but that was nothing a good shower couldn’t cure.

Here’s a shot taken yesterday while eggs and runners were frying on the sidewalk.



Many things that bring us down are beyond our control.  Some of us lose our jobs.  We go broke.  We lose friends, and sometimes even our closest family members are no longer among us.  We may work harder than others and such effort may take us nowhere.  Other times, something effortless results in a huge bonanza.  Life can be wildly random.

Running is the one thing over which I do have total control.  All decisions and movements are mine.  All effort is my own.  Every step forward is, in and of itself, a very small victory.  Satisfaction is the ultimate reward.

Most days, I run between 2 and 5 miles.  It takes me about an hour to run the full 5-mile course in my neighborhood, which is positioned on a gradual slope.  Running on a flat surface is much easier than running on slopes when paths are sometimes up and sometimes down.

What’s toughest for me are the hills.  Hills are murder on the legs.  There’s a quarter-mile stretch of my daily run which is all uphill.  My legs feel like rubber afterward.  They shake and want to collapse.  That part of my run isn’t getting easier.  To the contrary, it’s getting more difficult.  I suspect that losing some muscle mass due to age, even if it’s a little, has something to do with this.

As for vanity, I gave up worrying about extra weight or carrying a stomach a very long time ago.  I’ll never have a perfect body, so why worry about it?  Why obsess over weighing a certain number, when it seems more practical to do your own thing and let physics and biology take its course?  I’ll never be disappointed in not weighing a certain number because frankly, I don’t fucking care.  I’m going to eat my buttery meals and drink my wine, and then run when I can to stay as fit as a can.  Why bother with worrying?

That would be my advice to those who, like me, may carry a little extra weight and want to lose it.  Don’t worry about losing it so much as doing things you enjoy which might burn off some extra calories.  It’s really not that difficult it you make the time.

Some readers may think their busy schedules excuse them from exercise.  I don’t buy that excuse.  I used to work long hours, day and night.  I also used to travel more than half the year.  Consider that since I’ve begun running as a ritual, I’ve run the following number of times in these cities:

London, England — 2

Cannes, France — 20

Eindhoven, Holland — 10

Dublin, Ireland — 6

Cork, Ireland — 1

Ft. Lauderdale, FL — 25

West Palm Beach, FL — 30

Hickory, NC — 6

Laurel, MD — 6

Atlantic City, NJ — 20

Philadelphia, PA — 3

Pittsburgh, PA — 5

New York, NY — 1

Rome, NY — 10

Gary, Indiana — 5

New Orleans, LA — 30

Shreveport, LA — 9

Dallas, TX — 1

St. Louis, MO — 10

Phoenix, AZ — 1

Los Angeles, CA — 35

Escondido, CA — 20

South Lake Tahoe, NV — 12

Reno, NV — 2

Flathead Lake, MT — 2

Fargo, ND — 3

Sacramento, CA — 2

Las Vegas, NV — 1,200

Looking back, my toughest runs were in South Lake Tahoe, Flathead Lake, MT (due to elevation) and Gary, IN (due to it being a shit hole).  The easiest runs were almost always along oceans, which means along flat surfaces while enjoying gentle breezes.  I never had a problem running in South Florida, or Atlantic City, or even New Orleans during the summer.  Flat = good.  Hills/Altitude = bad.

The longest run I’ve ever made was 12 miles, which was 18 months ago in West Palm Beach.  That distance won’t break any world records, but I was very deeply satisfied I could still run that distance without stopping at my age.  That said, I did encounter a terrible chafing problem afterward where the meat of my thighs has rubbed together so much the skin was raw.  It wasn’t pretty.

Injuries are a customary hazard with running and all serious runners will encounter them at some point.  My view is, you have to just run through the pain and discomfort.  I don’t recommend this to everyone, of course.  Each body is different.  So, please do listen to pain signals within the body, especially if you are just starting out.  For me, I know I can work through discomforts.

Twice, I had lower back pains so bad that I could barely stand up without assistance.  This is something that just flares up out of nowhere about once a year.  Each time, I stretched and ran through the pain and then felt much better afterwards.

Another occasion, I was running along Okechobee Blvd. near the Palm Beach Kennel Club dog track.  Racing rough a crosswalk at a busy intersection, I made a giant misstep, missed the curb, and smashed by face onto the pavement.  In the process, I busted a kneecap that turned bloody but looked much worse than it actually was.  That caused me to miss a few days, but after the swelling went down, I made it a mission to return and race through that intersection, this time, bouncing over the curb like Rocky racing up the famous steps and thrusting his fists into the air.

The worst injury I suffered was seemingly benign and invisible, but which is, in fact, very painful, even to the point of causing debilitation.  Plantar Fasciitis is a knife-like pain up through the heel, which suddenly hit me a few years ago.  I can’t explain the sensation other than to say that even taking a small step is excruciating.  That stopped me from running for about six weeks, the only real stretch of time I’ve missed in five years.

I’ve tried to share the ups and downs of daily running from time to time with readers.  Some readers have even contacted me privately to say they will try and get healthy and will try running — to which I reply, bravo!

If it hits 118 degrees, I know where I’m headed — outdoors to the pavement.



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Posted by on Jun 18, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Music and Concert Reviews | 1 comment

Are Great Pop Musicians Washed Up by Age 30?



Recently, I read an intriguing retrospective of the dreadful Paul McCartney solo studio album, Ram — released 46 years ago today:


Recorded in the spring of 1971, Ram was McCartney’s second post-Beatles musical overture.  At the time, the lackluster album was universally eviscerated by critics.  In one of the kinder and gentler reviews, Rolling Stone described Ram as “incredibly inconsequential” and “monumentally irrelevant.”  Spoiled by a steady assembly line of Lennon-McCartney classics from the preceding decade, the public didn’t care much for the new music either.

Aside from the stellar Band on the Run, released a few years later in late 1973, most of McCartney’s other solo projects consisted of mostly patchwork collections of erratic inconsistency, while engaging on occasion, far more often mere trinkets of Paul’s much-celebrated earlier works.

By 1982, when McCartney crossed his 40th birthday, he’d all but retreated from the cutting-edge cliff of innovation de facto morphing into the world’s highest-paid nostalgia act (albeit, still a remarkable live performer filled with boundless energy, even today at 75).  If pressed to tell the truth, most hard-core Paul fans would probably have a difficult time naming a truly great McCartney-composed song released within the past 35 years.  For whatever reason, Rock’s Mozart has become Muzak.

To be fair, McCartney’s post-Beatles stuff has always been unfairly judged against the gold standard of pop music genius.  Expected to continue the greatest creative run in recorded musical history indefinitely, when Liverpool’s Fab Four plugged in their prehistoric instruments (by today’s standards) and changed everything within the eye blink of seven-year stretch, most fans and critics looked to McCartney as arguably the most talented of the group, and therefor best suited to transition as a solo artist and simply pick up where he left off right after the painful band break up in 1970.  Yet despite some valiant solo efforts along the way, McCartney has failed to deliver anything remotely close to the catalog of masterpieces when the far more youthful icon — still in his 20’s — wrote (or co-wrote) an astonishing collection of more than 300 songs, many the soundtrack to a generation.

How could the same creative source of ingenuity who penned “Yesterday” and “Eleanor Rigby” (by age 24), followed up by “Hey Jude” and “Let it Be” (by age 27) fade into a has-been, creatively speaking?  Indeed, how does the same musical sage who composed so many classics later record and release so many utterly forgettable songs?


Do great pop musicians run into creative gauntlet by age 30, and if so — why? [Note:  For purposes of discussion, I made “30” the creative cutoff.  But it could be 29, or 31, or 32 — the point being that musical creative talent diminishes perhaps over time]

The evidence does seem pretty convincing.  In my introduction, I picked on Paul McCartney because he’s one of the best-known musicians in history and his career is easier for us to judge over a longer stretch.  However, I could have said pretty much the same thing about the Rolling Stones or The Who — the two other legendary bands of the 1960’s trifecta.  I could also have plucked several other rock icons — including David Bowie, Elton John, Queen, U2, or Bruce Springsteen and made a similar argument that most of their creativity reached a peak prior to their 30th birthday.  Then there’s Bob Dylan, arguably the greatest songwriter in our lifetime, who pretty much peaked by age 34 with Blood on the Tracks.

Let’s take a closer look at the Stones.  While Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have clearly stood the test of time (and then some), they haven’t written or recorded anything remotely close to the temblor of Beggar’s Banquet (1968) or Let it Bleed (1969), or Exile on Main Street (1972) in nearly four decades.  By the time the Rolling Stones had released their most memorable stuff, Jagger and Richards, the band’s primary songwriters, were both age 28.

The Who penned and recorded an astonishing burst of great music between 1965’s My Generation up through 1973’s Quadrophenia.  Then, Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend turned 30, and it’s been all downhill since, at least from a cutting edge creative standpoint (to be fair, Keith Moon, a seminal force, died in 1978 at age 32).

This discussion isn’t limited only to white males of a certain era.  It also applies to female songwriters and many soul and R&B artists, as well.

Consider Carole King, a monumental force of songwriting who — after spending years in the shadows penning hit songs for other artists — enjoyed her own personal breakthrough with Tapestry, released in 1971.  At the time, she was 29.  King remains a vibrant performer.  However, like McCartney and the Stones and the rest, she’s not written anything particularly memorable in the last 35 years.

Stevie Wonder was a child prodigy and a bombshell of musical creativity.  Wonder was one of the first R&B artists to seize full musical control of his material, intentionally choosing to write his own songs and experiment with new sounds when many Black artists remained under the thumb of record company executives.  The years between 1970 and 1977 for him were as fruitful any artist in history.  Wonder hit is creative peak in 1977 with the release of the epic album masterpiece, Songs in the Key of Life.  At the time, Wonder was 27 years old.


What explains such an apparent decline in musical creativity, at a relatively young age?

Other genres of popular expression don’t seem to suffer an age lapse at all.  Consider that over the years, many painters, writers, and comedians have produced their greatest works well into the 40’s and 50’s and beyond.

With writers, advancing age has been shown to be, not an inhibitor, but an elixir of creative inspiration.  Few writers make much of an impact while still in their 20’s.  But over time, as one masters the use of language and art of expression, (good) writers do tend to become better at their craft.  I’m not sure if it’s the same with architects or scientists, who must also call upon vast reservoirs of knowledge and experience.  However, it seems quite clear that virtually all artistic avenues crowded with older people doing better work now than yesterday, and destined to improve on their efforts tomorrow.

So, what makes music — or at least pop music — so much different?



Note 1:  Keep in mind, I’m strictly discussing musical creativity, not musical performance.  Many performers put on a great show well into their 50’s, and beyond.  However, very few write good music well into their 50’s, and beyond.

Note 2:  Consumers of pop music do tend to skew much younger than average.  This would explain why many of the most popular musical acts are teenagers and in their 20’s.  There’s simply more profit to be made catering to this younger audience.  Hence, younger and fresher artists get far more opportunities and perhaps even greater creative latitude than older more experienced artists.

Note 3:  Audiences could be as much to blame for the lapse in creativity as anything else.  Most audiences prefer to hear hit songs.  Most audiences don’t want to hear new (unfamiliar) music.  So, there’s pressure on older acts to deliver stale material and no longer push creative boundaries.

Note 4:  Finally, there’s obvious complacency which sets in once a musician is a multi-millionaire, earning royalties for the remainder of their lives.


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Posted by on Jun 16, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, Rants and Raves, What's Left | 1 comment

The Cuba-Saudi Arabia Paradox



Today, President Trump rescinded the normalization of United States-Cuba relations.

In a rambling politically-charged speech delivered in Miami this morning, Trump said that he intends to return to a failed foreign policy which has harmed both nations, divided families, and was so grotesquely counterproductive that in fact, it created the longest-lasting political dynasty in the history of the Western Hemisphere.

Fidel Castro, who died last year, rule Cuba from 1959 until 2006 — a span of 47 years.  Despite numerous attempts to depose him from power, he outlasted nine American presidents.


Here’s a short historical timeline:

(1)  Prior to Castro Regime coming to power, the United States fully supported a brutally corrupt military dictatorship (Battista) which murdered as many Cubans within a seven-year period than the Communist government over more than five decades.

(2) The US rejected Fidel Castro’s peaceful overtures during the first year of his rule. When Cuba nationalized US oil refineries in 1960, that ignited a secret and illegal war run by the CIA using Cuban exiles and the Mafia to overthrow the government.

(3) US-backed forces, which included those Cuban exiles, financed by the Mafia, INVADED a sovereign nation, without any provocation in 1961 — in the Bay of Pigs.  The invasion was a disaster.  Predictions were embarrassingly wrong that Cubans would rise up and join the revolt.

(4) The US attempted to assassinate a foreign leader numerous times. Some of these illegal methods tied were laughable — like sending Castro poison pens and exploding cigars.

(5) Cuba’s economy floundered, largely due to a US-imposed embargo which lasted for 50+ years. Nonetheless, this policy backfired badly. Castro’s rule in Cuba LASTED LONGER than ANY leader in the history of the Western Hemisphere. The embargo only hurt the Cuban people. That’s the very definition of a failed policy.

(6) Americans were denied traveling to Cuba for years, based on concerns about human rights in Cuba. Meanwhile Americans have been free to travel to numerous other regimes run by murderers and military juntas all over the world. Furthermore, the US opened up diplomatic relations and even encouraged investment on other far more dangerous Communist regimes, including the USSR and PRC.

(7) President Obama finally became the adult in the room and recognized the embargo as a complete failure. In 2015, he opened up travel and investment in Cuba and American businesses flooded into try to pluck the economy, hoping to make a buck. Deals were in the works for hotels, resorts, banking, etc. which would certainly benefit US interests and the Cubans themselves.

(8) There’s now overwhelming support for the US opening up diplomatic relations with Cuba, except within the rabid Cuban exile community, which is largely comprised of the old remnants of Battista’s henchmen who once terrorized the country.  Many of these opponents of normalizing relations are descendants of landowners who hope to gain financially if the current regime fails.  The last thing they want is a peaceful and prosperous Cuba.

(9) Trump nixed Obama’s US-Cuba deal, returning to an outdated and failed Cold War mentality where the island nation is forcibly isolated from travel and tourism and investment. Although other island nations remain economic basket cases (Dominican Republic, Jamaica, etc.) while Cuba maintains a strong sense of pride and national identity, Trump now throws us back to a counterproductive Reagan era policy that will only harm ordinary Cubans and keep families divided.

(10) Parroting “human rights violations,” Trump rails against Cuba in a speech today in Miami, just a few weeks after praising an 11th Century regime which CRUSHES all dissent, which imprisons all protesters, which cuts off heads and limbs, which supports global terrorism more than any nation in the world, and which makes women third-class citizens with the same rights as slaves. Oh, and Trump also signs a $150 billion arms deal with these Saudi fucks, while at the same time blasting the Cubans.

Absolutely disgusting.


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