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Dealing With the Hazards of Social Media (New Podcast)

Posted by on Sep 16, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 0 comments

 

Note:  Matt Lessinger, a longtime friend and philosophical compatriot approached me recently with the idea to host a new podcast.  The concept was simple:  A conversation.  An intelligent conversation. 

One week later, here we are.  Our first podcast, which runs nearly two hours, is finished and posted.  We tackle the question with no simple answers, namely — what is social media doing to us?

Here’s Matt’s introduction of the new show on (where else?)….his Facebook page: 

 

Hello friends …

I hope you’ll indulge this experiment. Nolan Dalla and I agree that social media is a very difficult place to try to engage someone in intelligent conversation. So, we decided to have an intelligent conversation of our own. I enjoyed it tremendously, and I hope it will be the first of many.

I conceived this idea because the prevailing wisdom is that you can’t change people’s minds on social media. That may be true, but I knew that talking with Nolan about any topic would open my mind (and hopefully yours) to different possibilities. With each conversation that I post, I will describe an opinion of mine that evolved as a result of the conversation. Here’s the one for this week:

*I believe that social media is continually making our society worse. As we’ve become more and more polarized, I have held a very pessimistic view of what our society will become after another decade or two of social media usage. But in having that view, I was always very narrowly focused on Facebook and Twitter. Nolan pointed out that TikTok and some other social media platforms are catering to teenagers, who are really just trying to have fun. Meanwhile, adults are the ones who are typically more confrontational on social media, and often come off of it feeling angry or miserable. I hadn’t given the generational difference too much thought. Ten years ago, we adults were so worried that teenagers would misuse or abuse social media. We wanted to make sure that they were taught how to use social media responsibly. The problem is, we forgot to give that lesson to ourselves.

If I was 95% pessimistic about the future of our social media society, I would say after talking with Nolan that I’m now only 85% pessimistic. It will come down to whether the next generation will learn from all of the mistakes that we 21+ year olds have been making on Facebook and Twitter, or will they repeat the same dumb mistakes that we continue to make.*

Please enjoy this conversation, and feel free to share any topics that you feel are worthy of discussion.

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NFL 2020: Week #1 Picks

Posted by on Sep 12, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

 

Nolan Dalla

 

This will be my 25th straight year to post my picks each week in the NFL.  Time sure flies when you’re having fun.  All of my picks have been posted at public forums.  All of my results are a matter of record.

In 1995, I began posting at AOL’s sports boards.  Remember those early Internet days?  Then a few years later, I began posting weekly at SPORTSFANRADIO, which really attracted a following.  I specialized in NFL totals.

But my really big break came 20 years ago, prior to the 2000 regular season, when Jack Wooden, who I owe a significant debt of gratitude to, hired me part-time to post picks at his website, MADJACKSPORTS.  Jack’s support gave me lots of confidence and made me realize there’s a huge sports betting community out there.  It also made me work harder because I knew people would be reading my stuff, and perhaps even betting on games and totals I recommended.

Now, twenty years later, I’m certainly older.  Perhaps a little wiser.  Certainly more experienced at the highs and lows of sports betting, which can be both exhilarating and crushing (sometimes all in the same weekend).

Before I begin this NFL season, I want to thank the many readers I’ve met, online and in-person over the years.  I also want to thank Mr. Jack Wooden, a.k.a. “Mad Jack” himself, for taking a chance on me, and letting me go for a helluva’ ride.

This one’s for you, Jack.

Now, let’s talk some football.

Note 1:  Be sure to visit POINTSPREADS.CA where I post lots of sports betting articles, including picks.  We also do weekly videos on the NFL, which will sometimes include guests.

Note 2:  Each season, I begin with a $10,000 bankroll.  This season will be no different.  All results will be tracked, including posts made on Thursday Night games (since I can’t always do the full write-ups each week on Thursday, instead, I post picks on that game over on Facebook.  See:  NOLAN DALLA FACEBOOK PAGE

Note 3:  NFL weekly plays will be posted here on my page, and at POINTSPREADS.CA.  I will try to have the plays posted by midnight on Saturday night.

CHECK OUT MY NEW VIDEO EACH WEEK, WHICH WILL BE POSTED AT POINTSPREADS.CA EVERY SATURDAY BEFORE THE GAMES.

 

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2019 NFL WAGERING RECORD

Wins — Losses — Pushes          0 — 0 — 0

Starting Bankroll:   10,000

Current Bankroll:   10,000

Last Week’s Results:          + /- $0

*************************************************

 

My Week 1 Predictions:

 

MIA / NWE 

Patriots -7 

TOTAL — 42

Comments:  Big changes in NWE…none bigger than Cam Newton replacing GOAT Tom Brady at QB.  NWE still won without Brady in sporadic moments when he wasn’t playing, but this will be Belichick’s biggest test in 20 seasons.  NWE also lost a league-high 8 players to COVID.  That could be huge.  For MIA, the Dolphins are hoping to continue the momentum from second half of last season when they not only covered a majority of games but went from a hopeless 0-8 to winning outright in 5 of their last 8 games — including a massive upset at NWE in the finale here last season which knocked the Patriots out of the home field spot for the playoffs.  Dolphins, a joke early and a serious threat late, closed fast in 2019 covering in 9 of last 12 — all as an underdog.  That’s enough for me to bite on them once more, in a game that should be close.  Hoping this stays within a touchdown, so the play here is MIAMI +7.

 

CLE / BAL 

Ravens -7.5 

TOTAL — 47.5

Comments:  Cleveland entering a new season with its 9th head coach in the last 13 years.  Head coach Kevin Stefanski debut for Browns.  Can he turn things around?  We’ll see.  History hasn’t been kind to Cleveland.  Since 2013, Cleveland is 10-17-1 ATS as a road underdog and here they are again in that spot versus a team many think is the 2nd or 3rd best team in the NFL.  Here’s a stat:  Baltimore won its last four Week 1 games by combined final score of 139-20.  This includes the Ravens winning 13 of last 15 home openers (10-5 ATS).  Ravens also closed the 2019 regular season winning its last 12 outright and covering 8 of their last 9.  QB Lamar Jackson’s leg injury in camp is an issue perhaps, and maybe the mobile MVP candidate isn’t at 100 percent.  I’d play the Ravens at -7, but not -7.5.  Pass.

 

NYJ / BUF 

Bills -6.5 

TOTAL — 39

Comments:  Bills have trouble in these spots, with teams they should beat.  Last two years, Bills are just 3-5 ATS as a home favorite.  In fact, the Jets won 27-23 and 13-6 respectively in their last two trips to BUF.  Under might be tempting, but this is the lowest total on the board.  Jets are healthy, have a defense that can leep this close, a healthy QB for a change, and optimism.  BUF isn’t the type of team that blows out its opponents.  Taking the +6.5 is the right side with the divisional underdog.  Playing the NYJ plus the points.

 

LV / CAR 

Raiders -3 

TOTAL — 47.5

Comments:  Major changes all over the roster and sidelines for CAR, including Teddy Bridgwater at QB which could be an upgrade in terms of stability.  Head coach Matt Rhule makes his debut for Panthers.  No one expects much from them this season, which might play favorably early on.  Meanwhile, the franchise move from Oakland to Las Vegas was most unusual, especially in the age of COVID with no open practices or public events.  Raiders were a mess on the road the last few seasons,  so I’m not confident laying points with a team that seems uncharacteristically laying points as a visitor.  I see the better wager as the UNDER on a very high total, especially given how Bridgwater tends to be a short-yardage passer and may slow down the pace of scoring.  Raiders defense was terrible in 2020, but they may not need that much to stop a revamped CAR offense that will be playing its first game together as a starting unit.  Play UNDER 47.5    

 

SEA / ATL 

Seahawks -2.5 

TOTAL — 47.5

Comments:  Many cappers are betting on Seattle here, which seems like the far better team.  Perhaps they are, but I like ATL to keep this close and cover, if not win outright.  Consider the Seahawks woeful road record in openers, losing 11 of its last 13 as a visitor in September.  Meanwhile, ATL won its last three home openers, by margins of 11, 7, and 4 points.  Yeah, SEA is a Super Bowl contender, and ATL is likely to hover around the .500 mark.  But the Falcons are also a veteran team, making a fresh start, with experienced coaches, playing at home in a game they desperately want to begin to avoid the disaster that was the 2020 season.  The pick is ATL +2.5.

 

PHIL / WASH

Eagles -5.5 

TOTAL — 42.5

Comments:  New coach Ron Rivera is probably a good fit for WAS, but this team is a mess — from inept ownership, to revolving door of coaches, to one of the worst offenses in recent years, to lackluster public interest (unheard of for Washington, historically).  It will take time to make the WAS team relevant again, but I’m not convinced PHI is the play laying points on the road given how little time this unit has played together.  Some OL injuries and a forecast for rain lead me to believe the UNDER will be a better wager, especially since we get a fairly high number given the woeful WAS offense.  WAS lost five in row and seven of last eight home openers.  The world will be on the road dog, but I’ll move another direction and take UNDER 42.5.

 

CHI / DET 

Lions -2.5 

TOTAL — 43

Comments:  DET was riddled with injuries last season, including to QB Matt Stafford who missed several games.  I know this seems like an overreaction, but I’m tossing out their 4-12 record.  I see this as a different team now, and so does the public, since the Lions are a nearly FG favorite. DET is historically strong in this spot, winner of six of its last nine home openers in the Stafford era.  Yet, oddly enough, for all his problems, CHI QB Trubisky owns a passer rating of 132.56 in three career meetings against Matt Patricia’s Lions, totaling 866 yards (on 68-for-91 passing) with nine touchdowns and just one INT.  I like both the OVER 43 in this game and DET -2.5.

 

INDY / JAX

Colts -8 

TOTAL — 45

Comments:  Since when is INDY deserving of laying -8 on the road in a division game?  Explain that.  Okay, the Colts face JAX, forecasted to be the NFL’s worst team in ’20.  But that’s still a big number to cover with little preparation, lots of intangibles, and a major turnover at the most important skill position.  Phillip Rivers hasn’t resembled a top-10 QB in at least three seasons, lacking leadership and desire, it seems, in critical crunch-time situations.  He’ll have a better supporting cast in INDY, but it should take a few games for Rivers to get cozy in new surroundings.  It’s hard to make much of a case for JAX, but a few surprises:

— JAX did cover 9 of last 14 AFC South home games.

— Home side has won 9 of last 10 in this series.

— JAX won 6 of last 9 games with IINDY, including wins in last 4 games played here — three by 20+ points!

Hold your nose and take a home division dog.  JAX +8.

 

GB / MIN 

Vikings -2.5 

TOTAL — 45

Comments:  Under head coach Mike Zimmer, MIN is 26-10-1 ATS as a home favorite.  That’s a staggering number.  Home advantage will be neutralized in most games this weekend, but I still favor the home favorites here, against a team that’s probably overrated.   The Vikings are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 NFC North home games.  Vikings also won/covered their last five home openers.  Some concern that MIN is on its 5th offensive coordinator in six years.   UNDER had hit in 9-2 last 11 in this series.  I’ll take both MIN -2.5 and UNDER 45, looking for the Packers to struggle as they did in last season’s opener at CHI.

 

Now, on to the later games, plus Sunday night and Monday night…..

 

AZ / SFO 

49ers -7 

TOTAL — 48

Comments:  Defending NFC Champs, stacked on defense but some questions about range of the offense, especially with the passing game.  Of course, SFO deserves to be laying points, perhaps even a number close to a TD, but the game line might not have adjusted for how ARZ might have improved, given so many weapons on offense and a healthy team entering 2020.  ARZ stole star WR Hopkins in off-season trade, which now figures to be even more of a pass-threat.  Cardinals are also an impressive 9-5-2 ATS in their last 16 games as a road underdog, not bad for a team that hasn’t gotten much respect from bettors since Ariens’ departure.  Meanwhile, the publically popular 49ers are just 7-15-2 ATS in the last 24 games as a home favorite.  In fact, 4 of the last in this series were decided by 3 points.  There’s also a compelling “bet against the Super Bowl loser angle — as the runners up often struggle the following season.  I love ARZ getting +7.

 

TB / NOR 

Saints -3.5 

TOTAL — 48.5

Comments:  Game of the week for most fans.  Powerhouse and proverbial NFC favorite Saints versus rejuvenated Bucs with GOAT at QB.  Brees-Brady.  Wow, doesn’t get much better than this.  Tom Brady suits up in first game with TB.  Bucs’ coach Arians had been doing a good job rebuilding, but pressure to win is suddenly now with 43 year old under center.  Some concern that Arians is 5-11 ATS in last 16 games as a road underdog.  I’d normally fade the high expectations in TB, but NOR is a notoriously slow-starting team, even at the Superdome.  They simply don’t cover in Sept. games.  NOR might bulldoze most of the opposition, but I can’t back them with real money here, given some concerns about their history in addition to the home field crowd noise in New Orleans all but gone.  Pass.

 

SNF:  DAL / LAR  

Cowboys -2.5 

TOTAL –51.5

Comments:  Much-anticipated home opener for Rams, but lots of question marks after a mediocre season and widespread perception this is a “soft” team.  The LAR did get pushed around last season, taking a huge step back from the Super Bowl season in 2018.  They could be the last-place team in this division.  Or, they might contend, if things come together.  I have major concerns about the LAR, but few on DAL, which on paper is one of NFL’s best teams (but always underachieves).  New coach in DAL, but same offensive coordinator.  In an underrated personnel move, money kicker Zeurlein came to Dallas from the Rams and makes DAL even stronger.  Since 2014, Dallas is 15-9-1 ATS as a road favorite.  DAL also covered 10 of its last 13 road openers.  In last year’s massacre between these two, DAL destroyed LAR with 260 rushing yards in their 44-21 win.  Home opener excitement will be nonexistent for the Rams which could use a boost, so I’ll take DAL -2.5 which seems to have better personnel.

 

MNF:  PIT / NYG 

Steelers -6 

TOTAL — 46

Comments:  Head coach Joe Judge debut for New York.  Ex-Dallas bust-out Jason Garrett is the new OC.  Tempting to play road favorite here given NYG question marks, but better play is likely the total.  Steelers went UNDER in 12 of 16 games last season (almost all of it minus Roethlisberger) and are now UNDER 17-6 their last 23 since late 2018.  Should be a run-based attack with NYG, plus fewer weapons on offense than usual for Steelers.  Total looks too high.  Playing UNDER 46 here.

 

MNF:  TEN / DEN 

Titans -2.5 

TOTAL — 41.5

Comments:  DEN LB Von Miller may be out for season, and that news moved the line a few points.  That’s the worst possible news for a team that will need every healthy body to stop a potent TEN attack.  QB Tannehill was the NFL’s top-rated last 10 games pf 2019 after knocking Mariota to the sidelines and captaining his team into the playoffs.  Titans also have one of the best running games in the league.  That should be too much for DEN, which won’t have the tools to keep up, if TEN scores their usual number (average 30 pts last season).  Look for TEN to dominate the time of possession and wear down DEN, which is traditionally a very good early season home team.  But this isn’t the opponent they want to face.  Home fans also neutralized, which helps the visitor.  TENN gets my money at -2.5.

 

MY BEST BET OF THE WEEK

LAC / CIN 

LAC -2.5 

TOTAL — 42

Comments:  Rookie QB Burow gets the nod at QB, without having played in a preseason game.  Never taken a snap.  That’s usually a good fade.  Last two years, Bengals are woeful 5-10-1 ATS at home.  CIN is also 2-7 ATS in last nine games as a home underdog.  LAC might be the play, but they have some concerns, as well — especially on offense with Rivers’ departure and Tyrod Taylor getting the start.  I don’t see where the points will come from that justifies a 42 in this game, especially since LAC defense is pretty good and could very well shut down CIN, which is virtually an expansion level team at this point.  UNDER 42 is my recommendation.

 

Final Official Plays (15 Wagers):

 

Miami +7 vs. New England — $330 to win $300

Las Vegas/Carolina UNDER 47.5 — $440 to win $400

NY Jets +6.5 vs. Buffalo — $330 to win $300

Atlanta +2.5 vs. Seattle — $275 to win $250

Philadelphia/Washington UNDER 42.5 — $385 to win $350

Detroit -2.5 vs. Chicago — $165 to win $150

Detroit/ Chicago OVER 43 — $330 to win $300

Jacksonville +8 vs. Indianapolis — $440 to win $400

Minnesota -2.5 vs. Green Bay — $275 to win $250

Minnesota/Green Bay UNDER 45 — $220 to win $200

Arizona +7 vs. San Francisco — $330 to win $300

Dallas -2.5 vs. LA Rams — $330 to win $300

Pittsburgh/NY Giants UNDER 46 — $220 to win $200

Tennesee -2.5 vs. Denver — $440 to win $400

LA Chargers/Cincinnati UNDER 42 — $550 to win $500

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When They Stood Tall: Remembering the World Trade Center — Before 9/11

Posted by on Sep 10, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Personal, Politics, Travel | 0 comments

 

wtc4

 

Introduction:  It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly two decades.  Today marks the 19th anniversary of 9/11, a fitting time to look back and remember the World Trade Center before they collapsed on that terrible day.  Marieta and I visited the World Trade Center a few times.  We even went to the top of one of the towers about a year before the tragedy.  Today’s essay includes some photos which were taken during those visits.  These photos are all that remains.

 

Note:  For a broader perspective of what I witnessed at the Pentagon on the day of 9/11, read this personal recollection posted at my site a few years ago — REMEMBERING SEPTEMBER 11, 2011 AT THE PENTAGON

 

They were colossal….even by New York standards.

The twin towers.  So utterly unremarkable in design, yet so grandiose by sheer size and scope, weren’t just windows to the world.  They were extensions of our national character and pillars of America’s unequivocal stature as a global superpower.

Within sight of those two towers, the Statue of Liberty is often said to symbolize our national identity.  But the unruffled lady bearing a flaming torch is more of an idea, really.  Perhaps even a myth, given where we are and what we’ve become.  Rooted squarely within the planet’s financial epicenter, the World Trade Center arose as the true manifestation of a nation, an economy, and a people — imposing, bold, excessive, and unapologetic for it all.

Which is precisely why they were such inviting targets on that fateful day no one saw coming.

 

wtc1

I took this photo about a year before it happened.

The view from the top of the towers looking east towards Brooklyn was breathtaking.

Visitors rode express elevators from the ground floor to the observation decks.  One was inside.  Another was on the rooftop, outside.

 

wtc2

That’s Marieta off to the right of the frame.

Here’s another angle, of the view looking east, but angled more towards the south.  If you look carefully, you can see the tip of Manhattan Island starting to curve around, there off to the right side.  The World Trade Center was only a block or so away from the shore.  In fact, a landfill was added to part of the outer perimeter which allowed traffic to move more easily.  A park was also added near the waterfront.  Of course, that’s all gone now, or at least it’s been transformed.

 

wtc3

When we stepped inside Windows on the World, the famous restaurant perched on the 106th and 107th floor of the North Tower, this was the view looking out towards Hudson Bay.  There in the center of the photo where the golden sunset radiates off the water is Liberty Island, which provides the base of the Statue of Liberty.  You can barely see her proudly standing there in the glow of the sunshine.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

The twin towers standing so close side by side meant you could sometimes see people over in the other building.  Those working in offices were on display, but if you fear heights, like me, the view was dizzying.  Company executives with corner offices who by the very definition of where they worked had “made it.”  All strangers.  But in a very real sense, they were our friends and our family, too.

Watching someone over in the other tower, catching their eye, and waving was pretty amazing.  Seeing them wave back was a real joy.

I wonder what happened to some of those nice people who waved.  I wonder how many survived, and how many did not.

 

wtc5

 

The first thing that hits you when you step outside onto the observation deck at the World Trade Center is — the wind.

It’s windy.

Not like a breeze.  Not even gusts.  It just blows…..hard….all the time.

We went outside on a perfect day.  I can’t even imagine the difficulty of what it must have been like to do construction or maintenance work on the roof of these buildings.  The wind was brutal.

Here’s the view from the outer observation deck looking directly north, uptown on Manhattan Island.  Oddly enough, when being up this high it’s so far up one might lose any fear of heights.  It’s almost like flying.

 

After

Just about everyone connected in any way to the events of 9/11 had an opinion on what to do with the now-sacred site.  In the end, rich and powerful financiers do what they always do, which is to tear it all down, haul it away, and rebuild again.  The land beneath the bodies and rubble was far too valuable to be left simply, as is, which would have been the most appropriate tribute.

At the very least, part of the iconic outer skeleton of the World Trade Center should have been left intact, and then other buildings could have been built around it.  Something, at least, should have remained of those fallen towers, to remind us.  Something tangible.  Something people can see, and touch, and remember.

Now that those two platforms of such wonderfully unique perception are gone, we can no longer gaze out, reflect, and enjoy.  The purgatory between earth and sky stands no more.

 

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Remembering Mike Sexton

Posted by on Sep 9, 2020 in Blog, Essays, General Poker | 0 comments

 

****

 

Remembering Mike isn’t a sad occasion.  When I think of him, I smile. So many dinners, conversations, and fond memories. This photo was taken in 1997 at Puggy Pearson’s house, with Mike and Stu Ungar.

Three legends.

****

 

 

As I looked through my own archive of photos, I realized just how important Mike was at various junctions of my life. I’m sure many others feel the same and, like me, credit Mike for making a difference and always providing just the right inspiration or motivation to do the right thing.

Here’s one more photo worth sharing, taken sometime in the 1990s. Mike and I are at Stu Ungar’s house.

Wish I’d taken more photos, but back then we didn’t have camera phones.

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I appreciate being quoted in this article on Mike’s passing by one of Las Vegas’ top journalists, Howard Stutz.

READ ARTICLE HERE

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Bill Ordine, a longtime sportswriter for the Baltimore Sun and Philadephia Inquirer, wrote this nice tribute to Mike, and asked for my thoughts.  It was tough to list all of Mike’s contributions in a simple statement.  In fact, Mike’s legacy would require volumes, especially if written and spoken by all the thousands of people whose lives he touched.

READ ARTICLE HERE

 

****

What a beautiful tribute to Mike on this podcast, thanks to Chad Hollaway, Sarah Herring, and Jeff Platt at Poker News:

01:30 First news that came as such a shock
09:25 Maria shares her thoughts
26:30 Linda Johnson joins the show to give deep insights into Mike Sexton
34:30 Mike Sexton was a dancer!!
39:15 Jan Fisher shares Mike Sexton hustle story
42:50 Nolan Dalla explains how Mike was essential in his book about Stu Unger
52:48 Remko Rinkema reveals his experience and understanding of Mike Sexton
01:06:00 Adam Pliska & Vince Van Patten from Mike Sexton’s WPT family
01:28:00 Some unknown elements of Mike Sexton through the eyes of Tony Dunst
01:33:45 Why every poker player should be more like Mike Sexton according to Antonio Esfandiari
01:36:20 Mike’s brother Jeff Sexton shares thoughts on Mike Sexton from outside of poker

LISTEN HERE

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What I Miss Most

Posted by on Sep 6, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 0 comments

 

 

America’s political crevasse has wrecked families and ruined friendships.

It’s tested our patience, made us question our values, caused us to rethink priorities, and utterly dominated every sector of our lives nearly to the breaking point of exhaustion.

This comes as a non-partisan observation. As you read on, I think people on the Left and the Right will be somewhat in agreement.

In recent years, I’ve witnessed friends and colleagues, who never expressed their political opinions before, becoming both outspoken and active. It’s as though fuses were lit. Passions exploded. This is true for Trump’s defenders and his critics.

I never thought before this ordeal that I’d ponder, let alone scribe, the statement which I’m about to make: I AM SICK OF POLITICS.

Now, to understand the gravity of that comment, you must understand that I have lived and breathed and inhaled and expectorated politics for all of my adult life. 36 years ago, I earned a degree in political science and later, worked in government for more than a decade. No matter which party ruled, or who was elected, my enthusiasm for the American political process, even with its many shortcomings, was heartfelt and genuine. And even after leaving politics in pursuit of other interests, in my spare time, I continued to read about current events and explore ideas. That was my hobby, but even that description doesn’t do the devotion justice.

Hence, I never thought I’d finally reach the stage of fatigue where I dreaded turning on the television each morning, for fear of the next and newest shock and scandal and the inevitability of another galactic battle between alternative universes of an opposite reality. I never thought I’d come to the point of reading books on political and social philosophy as nauseating. I never thought I’d reach the end of the path of what had been a roadway of insatiable curiosity to slamming into a cul-de-sac.

But now, here I am.

Over the next eight weeks, I am determined to work as hard as I possibly can and put everything within my soul into electing the people and party who I believe can best deliver something that’s vanished in recent years.

And that is — normalcy.

What I miss most is — normalcy.

Yeah, I want a revolution. I want big changes. I want the ideas I believe in to win. But this election isn’t about ideas or issues or ideology so much as it’s about normalcy versus pandamonium. Sanity versus chaos. Normal daily activities for ourselves versus fighting in the streets and ceaseless wars on social media.

If my preferred candidates win, does that mean the nation’s deep fissure of division will heal? Of course not. Division and arguments and debate and pain, perhaps lots of pain given the hole we’re in, will continue.

But for a few years, we might also get a break. A breather. A little normalcy. A bit more kindness. Fewer scandals. Less cruelty. More civility. I’m voting for that.

On or before Nov. 3rd, I’m voting for the thing I miss most — normalcy.

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Dallas’ Dirtiest Drive-In: The Lone Star

Posted by on Aug 31, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Travel | 0 comments

 

 

Once upon a time, Dallas had 19 drive-in movie theaters scattered throughout the city.  This is the story of the one that created traffic jams on the freeway, ignited court battles, and quite likely was the ground zero of conception for many. 

 

November 3rd, 1951 was opening night at the Lone Star Drive-In, which would become a thriving business that lasted 37 years, the longest of any outdoor movie theater in the city’s history.  The film which premiered that night was Broken Arrow, a western starring Jimmy Stewart.  Reportedly, the grand opening was accompanied by the explosion of fireworks.

Oh, if irony could foretell of the surreptitious sleaze to come.

Camped in a swampy industrial section of East Dallas engulfed in oak trees on Military Parkway, the Lone Star Drive-In was just another family-friendly hangout for a decade and a half,.  But then the owners cooked up a wacky way to increase profits by carving out a niche customer base that was certain to be controversial, even scandalous, but would also attract even more cars and customers — if only they could get away with it.

Their new business model was to start showing smut.

In 1966, the happy families loaded into station wagons must have slammed on the breaks in full panic mode when they pulled into the Lone Star Drive-In and been shocked to discover it was now showing X-rated movies.  Quick daddy, hit the reverse!  I’m not sure exactly what an X-rated movie looked like in 1966 since the MPA rating system wasn’t instituted until two years later, in 1968.  I presume those early films must have been hysterically awful and even tame by today’s tawdry standards.  But back then, with strict decency codes the norm in most American cities, it’s almost unimaginable that Dallas had an open-air, outdoor movie venue that featured hard-core pornography, what were then called “skin flicks.”

Welcome to the Lone Star Drive-In!

Note from the banner ad, that when the theater first opened, they advertised a “playground for the children.”

Presumably, that attraction later hit the skids once the porn began to flow.

 

 

Dallas has no natural reason to be a hub for drive-ins.

Except for lots of cars.  Hot summer nights.  And nothing much else to do.

Okay, so maybe Dallas — at least back then — was the ideal town for drive-in movies.

History doesn’t lie on this question.  Years later, well into the 1980s, Dallas featured the only nationally-syndicated drive-in movie critic.  Joe Bob Briggs (real name — John Bloom) wrote a hysterical weekly column, movie reviews actually, of the worst films ever made.  They were published in the Weekend section of the now-defunct Dallas Times Herald, which also spawned the careers of many — including sportswriter Dan Jenkins, PBS’ Jim Lehrer, the late politically brilliant Molly Ivins and Skip Bayless, the motormouth on ESPN.  Briggs himself became semi-famous for playing the role of the incompetent hick slot manager who was fired in Martin Scorsese’s film, Casino.

However, for all his ambition and talent, Briggs never once reviewed any of the movies playing at the Lone Star Drive-In between 1966 and 1987, not even Debbie Does Dallas.  That’s when the giant screen finally went dark….after one last money shot.

 

 

The most unusual thing about the Lone Star Drive-In was its location, adjacent to a busy expressway that was named after a former member of the Ku Klux Klan.  [Note 1]

You can look it up.

Movies couldn’t be shown until after dark.  But when skin flicks hit the screen nightly between 8 pm and midnight, graphic sex scenes were easily visible from the road.  Envision driving down the expressway one moment, and then the next — penises the size of Chevrolets.  And the acting skills of a jackhammer.

Many rubbernecking witnesses recall “traffic jams” building up along the expressway, particularly during the winter months when the surrounding trees shed their leaves and made for a dangerous driving distraction.  Others who remember the Lone Star Drive-In said accidents were common along the section of the roadway where voyeurs could capture a quick peek behind the wheel of the car.  Truckers sometimes parked on the median, feigning a “flat tire.”

The stretch of road on the other side of the drive-in complex, known as Lawnview, reportedly had “much clearer views.”  It also wasn’t subject to the dangers of distracted drivers barrelling down the expressway going 70 mph.  There, on a dark and quiet city street, dedicated aficionados of the cinema arts unwilling to pay the cover charge could watch the screen, though without the sound.  The Dallas Police regularly patrolled the area, frequently running off lots of teenagers and cheapskates.

 

 

The owners operated several drive-in theaters across Texas, but their decision to show X-rated movies in the middle of Dallas got to be way too much for local authorities to ignore.  That’s when the legal battles began.

Somehow, reasons unknown, land exemptions had been grandfathered in.  The Lone Star Drive-In’s owners escaped the normal zoning restrictions for decades, to say nothing of the mystery of how they managed to evade local laws on decency.  Bribes?  How much profit could a porno movie earn to be used to bribe cops and politicians?  Who knows?

One story goes that they were able to avoid the deadly classification as an “adult-oriented business” by occasionally running mainstream movies, those rated G and PG, suitable for the whole family.  Hence, on some nights the neon marquis in front might advertise a showing of 101 Dalmations, and the next night promote the feature attraction — Sorority Sluts.  No word on how they avoided confusion when Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs was shown.  Presumably, moviegoers didn’t know if they’d be watching a kiddie cartoon or a gangbang.

 

 

I remember the Lone Star Drive-In.  Very well.  I even went there a few times.

The legal age for entry was 17 and during high school, it was just another rite of passage to the eventual boredom of adulthood.  Just like the first time you saw the centerfold in Playboy or kissed a girl.  Once a group of us guys went together, which was way far more awkward than it was exciting.  Another time, I went on a double date.  Some helpful advice:  Don’t ever take a girl to an X-rated drive-in movie on a first date.

Whatever the cover charge was ($5 for a carload, I think — no matter if it was 1 person or a dozen), you got to watch three sleazy movies.  What a joy!  They also had those giant metal speakers attached to an industrial cable that would be hung inside the car window, which was always screechy.  I don’t recall much about the concession stand, other than the hot buttered popcorn was certainly something not to be touched.

According to a few drive-in nostalgia sites, the Lone Star Drive-In finally closed down with utterly no fanfare.  This time, there were no fireworks.  No porno parage.  No gooey goodbyes.  It wasn’t the Internet and free porn that killed all the big-screen fun.  It wasn’t free porn.  Rather, it was a new city law and an updated ordinance.  The owner’s exemption to restrictions on adult businesses ran out, and the movie went dark on December 18, 1987.  One week before Christmas Day.

Ho, ho, ho.

Sometime later, many months or it might have been a few years, with weeds sprouting in the parking lot and the white-plastered screen dingy with dirt and faded by the searing Texas heat, the drive-in suffered a sad and mysterious end.  The television news later reported the abandoned drive-in, including the giant screen, had somehow caught on fire.  Never mind how suspicious it sounds that a vacant property matted in gravel and surrounded by sheet metal miraculously burst into flames.  The punch lines to the story wrote themselves:  Wow, the X-rated drive-in caught on fire!  That must have been one hot movie!

I guess, looking back now many years later, the Lone Star Drive-In was equal parts of quirky reminiscence and shameful disgust.  All the drive-ins are gone now, perishable by evolution, erased by time.

 

Note 1:  That busy freeway is named after R.L Thorton, a former Dallas Mayor and member of the Ku Klux Klan.  Many Dallas residents are trying to change the name of the freeway.

Photo 1 Credit:  http://cinematreasures.org

Photo 2 Credit:  http://photos.cinematreasures.org

Photo 3 Credit:  Derek Maxwell

Photo 4 Credit:  DFW History Alive

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Who is This Man?

Posted by on Aug 28, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 0 comments

 

 

CAN YOU IDENTIFY THIS MAN?

Here are a few hints:

— He born on May 18, 1855, in Mount Morris, NY. He lived much of his life in Rome, NY.

— He became an active member of the First Baptist Church, where his father was a minister. He also became a minister and author.

— He once ran for the office of Governor of New York State, but lost.

— He was a self-described “Christian Socialist” who (in his own words) championed “the rights of working people and the equal distribution of economic resources,” which he believed was inherent in the teachings of Jesus.

— While speaking as a minister, he was once removed from the pulpit in Boston for preaching out against the evils of capitalism.

— Later in his life, he left the ministry and stopped attending church altogether, reportedly because of the racism he witnessed there.

— His career as a preacher ended because of his tendency to describe Jesus as a socialist. He taught classes with topics such as “Jesus the socialist,” “What is Christian Socialism?”, and “Socialism versus anarchy.”

— Today, he’s widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in the early American socialist movement.

 

So, who is this person?

His name is Francis Bellamy.

Who? So, what was he best known for?

FRANCIS BELLAMY wrote THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE. *

So, next time you think the principles of democratic socialism are anti-American, try this:  Say your pledge and remember the words and wisdom of its author.

 

Footnote:  Bellamy wrote the original Pledge of Allegiance, which did not contain the words, “under God.”  He believed in the absolute separation of church and state and did not include the phrase “under God” in his pledge, which was added in the 1950s, 25 years after Bellamy’s death.

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10 Useless Facts That You Might Want To Know

Posted by on Aug 23, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

The amount of information to share and receive in our daily lives is massively abundant.  Especially in our social media platforms, there are loads and loads of information transmitted from millions of users every day. The funny thing is, we readily believe that those loads of information are 100% true without fully validating it. 

Fake news and other made-up stories have their purposes of doing it. Whether it is for a political movement, money-making, or some clout chaser people seeking fame and attention, they falsify information for their benefit. We will discuss facts, and another funny thing is, we will discuss useless facts! 

7-UP is a Straightforward Name

Let’s start our useless facts list with a popular carbonated drink, 7-UP! You might even have wondered why 7-UP is branded that way. You are probably thinking of a profound sentiment that the founder has experienced or a logical construct on how he formulated the product. Well, Charles Leiper Grigg named 7-UP in 1929 from the original 7-ounce bottle and saw the bubbles go up, so it’s called 7-UP. 

A coin toss is not 50-50

A coin toss is believed to be a 50-50 equation for giving both parties an equal share of fairness. If you are stuck in a sticky situation wherein you cannot fully decide how to settle things, think twice about using the coin toss. Coin tosses are 51-49, there is a 51% chance that the coin will end up on the side it started on. 

Bears Don’t Poop During Hibernation

Hibernation is the condition or period of an animal in a dormant state to spend the winter. So you might probably ask, how do they defecate? Or if they do, where do they keep it? Reasonable questions for such cases, bears do not poop during their hibernation. They sleep long enough to finish winter and release it all one-time big time after hibernation. 

Babies Are Born Without Kneecap

So babies are born without kneecaps, quite disturbing, is it? Their kneecaps develop in their fourth year, and temporarily their knees are composed of cartilaginous structure. However, babies have more bones compared to that of a full-grown adult. No wonder those cute little knees of theirs are so delicate. 

Most American Car Honks Are In The Key of F

When vehicles were introduced and commercialized, one indication of social status is the number of notes you have in a car honk. Elite American people always like to be five steps ahead of everyone else; that is why most of the American car honks are in the key of F. 

Pigs Have The Longest Orgasm In Mammals 

Yes, it is not us humans who have the most extended orgasm. It is not Leah Gotti, Abella Danger, or Sasha Grey, but the domestic pigs. Their orgasms can last for an average of 30 minutes and can peak up to 90 minutes. The “Sus Scrofa Domesticus,” compared to any known mammal, has the longest duration of enjoyment.  

Blue Whales Have The Largest Penises

No, it is not the BBC that won the award for the world’s largest penis, not even the horses. Blue whales are officially declared to have the largest penis, with a length of ten feet and a diameter of 12 inches. We can never contest to that. 

Tomato Robots Were Invented By Japan For Runners

Japan is very well-known for creating robots with different functionalities. Most of the things in Japan can be done by robots, from manufacturing to hospitality accommodating. In 2015, Kagome invented the Tomatan backpack robot to effortlessly feed runners with the proper nutrition while on the go. 

Your Stomach is Obliged To Produce New Layer of Mucus Every 2 Weeks

Although we know that our stomachs need to produce mucosal layers now and then, this 2-week interval is different. Did you know that when the stomach cannot do so, it can digest itself? Given its high acidic content, the gastric acid can melt its own structure without the presence of gastric mucosal layers. 

Chalk is Edible

Although we are not talking about the classroom chalks that we once dared our classmates to eat, chalk is surprisingly edible. The natural chalk Sawn Belgordskiy 200 gr. is a non-toxic material safe for eating. It has crunchy bites, melts, and crackles in your mouth and even has an ASMR video compilation of chalk eating.  

Takeaway

While you may find some of these facts funny and absurd, these are some random things that you might find hilarious in opening conversations. It is always better to know more than knowing less. It is better to know these useless facts than to listen to fake news or articles. 

In a world that it is media-driven, modern, and digital, it is always advisable to double-check the validity and legitimacy of the information we encounter.

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Wednesday: 9 Incredible Facts You Need to Know About the Middle Day of the Week

Posted by on Aug 23, 2020 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

Do you have a favorite day of the week? If yes, then this topic will really hook your interest! Of all the week’s days, did it cross your mind that Wednesday is a little odd compared to other days? We have seven days every week, and Wednesday is in the middle; it feels like there’s something behind this day that will leave as in awe. 

Well, there’s really something about Wednesday, Pal! Once you already knew things about it, you’ll always remember that Wednesday is not just an ordinary day but also a day filled with marvel. If you can’t suppress your excitement and curiosity any longer, don’t waste your time and immediately read these Wednesday facts that we prepared for you. 

Wednesday is Also Called Hump Day

If Hump Day is a new term to you, it’s not related to sexual nor desert animals; aside from that, it doesn’t also mean a moment to post sexy photographs on social media or to commemorate camels. The real meaning of Hump Day is celebrating the idea that you’ve passed the week’s hump. 

If you’re working or a student, you’ll be relieved once Wednesday arrives because it gives you the idea that you’re halfway through the hellish week, and you’re near in the days of freedom and rest. 

The Betrayal of Jesus is Known as Spy Wednesday

Behind the term Good Wednesday, there also lies the phrase Spy Wednesday. The Spy refers to Judas’ betrayal of being a disciple of God. For those who have no inkling about Holy Wednesday, it happens three days before Easter arrives. 

Red Wednesday is an Advocacy that Opposed Religious Violence

This Red Wednesday is observed and examined by religious organizations; ACN or Aid to the Church in Need started Red Wednesday to be mindful of all Christians’ oppression and persecution. 

Ash Wednesday is the Starting Point for the Holy Week 

Catholics and other Christian groups practice Ash Wednesday before Easter. Typically, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten period. It also begins the tradition of Christians to confide in God and admit their sins to Christ. Most Christians practiced repentance through fasting and abstaining from worldly things and negative behaviors.

During the gathering on Ash Wednesday, Christian get a mark of an ash cross from a priest on their forehead. The ash cross symbolizes the followers’ miseries and sufferings because of their sins.  

American Christians Used Wednesday Nights for Spiritual Activities

Most American Christians set their activities, such as Bible studies or prayer meetings, on Wednesday evening. Because of that reason, public American schools’ sports calendars avoid setting occasions on Wednesdays. They chose Monday and Thursday for women’s games, and Tuesday and Friday for men’s games.  

Wednesday Addams Came From a Nursery Rhyme

In the make-believe world of the Addams Family, their eldest child was named Wednesday Addams. According to the maker, Charles Addams, he got the name Wednesday from Monday’s kid of the nursery rhyme. 

Originally perceived as a piece of foretelling song, the song’s lyrics illustrate Wednesday’s kid as a child full of misery. Considering that idea, we can say that the child’s morbid condition definitely suits the character. 

Wednesday is Considered a Fortuitous Day for the Stock Market Trade

We can’t foretell the future, I know, but we also can’t deny that there’s it’s this day that we truly look forward to because we considered it lucky. The stock market, for instance, it’s uncertain, but the data revealed that the highest amounts from the year 1932 to 2007, happened during Wednesdays.  

Excluding the profits, S&P 500 paid back 2,179% for hump days, 244% for Tuesday’s, 502% for Thursdays, 175% for Fridays, and -98.5% for Mondays. This luck slowly changed from 2008 onwards; Wednesday as the lucky day for the stock market, slowly shifted back to Saturdays. 

Australia Had a Dreadful Ash Wednesday

On Wednesday, exactly February 16, 1983, over 100 wildfires rekindled over southern Australia. This dreadful occurrence took off 300,000 livestock, plus it caused 75 human fatalities and 2,600 wounded.  Additional damages swept 9,000 homes, amounting to $324 million. From that day, this historical incident was called the Ash Wednesday.   

A Professional Football Squad was Called After Wednesday

Wednesday Sheffield is one of the ancient football squads worldwide that was based in England. They named their team in 1820 as the Wednesday Cricket Club; they called it after Wednesday because their members’ day off from work is exactly on Wednesday. 

Takeaway

We’re left astonished upon knowing about Wednesday. How much more about the other days of the week, right? It’s without a doubt that the rest of the days also have a lot of wondrous stories that are not yet revealed to anyone; if you can’t contain your curiosity, this is the time to feed yourself with other incredible facts, Pal!

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Blame Republicans and Conservatives for the Death of Small Town America

Posted by on Aug 21, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, Travel, What's Left | 2 comments

 

 

Here’s a fact?  97 out of the 100 poorest counties in America are in red states — i.e. Republican states.

 

Democrats often get blamed for the collapse of many American cities, particularly inner-city neighborhoods where stores and shops are boarded up and poverty is a daily way of life for the people who live there.

The ruse goes something like this:  Big cities are mostly run by Democrats, who comprise a majority of mayors and city councils.  Accordingly, Democrats are at fault for slums, crime, and a pervasive diseased culture of hopelessness.

The accusation does seem to have considerable merit to those with little or no grasp of history nor an understanding of urban affairs.  The accusation appears to ring true to those stuck inside echo chambers of hyperpartisan disinformation, which is a deliberate and constant toxicity brewed on right-wing media.  The accusation does look factual to someone who’s spent no time actually working in big cities nor ever comes into direct contact with people who born and live most of their lives poverty.  It’s attractive clickbait to those susceptible to the mindlessness of memes, those who don’t really give a damn at all about their fellow brothers and sisters struggling to make ends meet in the ghetto.

Indeed, there’s a lot of blame floating around out there and most of it is aimed at Democrats.

Now, let’s look at the truth.

 

 

Oddly enough, for reasons I can’t quite comprehend, no one blames Republicans for the collapse of small-town America.  I mean, wait-just-a-minute here:  Aren’t most small towns run by conservative Republicans?

The fact is, small-town America has been in a tailspin for several decades.  The evidence is overwhelming.  Despite a so-called “boom economy,” many town squares, once thriving centers of commerce packed with locals who shopped and ate lunch and conducted most of their business with people they knew, now resemble snapshots of what things were like during the Great Depression.  Boarded up stores.  Broken windows.  Vacancy signs.  Buildings completely deserted.  You know, just like in the big cities.

Look at some of these pictures.  You can’t tell if these buildings are in Detroit or Dixie.

Things are at their very worst — in other words, the economy really sucks — in small towns in the South and the West.  Many towns have quite simply vanished.  They are de facto ghost towns — places with signs and spots on a map — and they number in the hundreds, if not thousands.  And they’re vanishing.

Why is this happening?  Many reasons.  One is that Walmart has steamrolled over more businesses and led to the shutdown more factories in America, due to outsourcing its suppliers and manufacturing overseas, than any company in history.

Looking for a culprit to blame for all the stores in the town being vacant?

Here’s something you won’t read on the right-wing rags.  Thank giant corporations, industrial farming, conservative economic policies pushed by Republicans, union-busting, and the insatiable greed of the market greased by company shareholders who consistently demand profits over people.  If a product can be made cheaper in China, fuck it — close the doors and move the plant.  Capitalism 101.

And so, small towns and the people who live in them became the victims of bad economics.

 

 

Yet, no one points a finger at any of the Republican mayors of these deserted towns, nor the Republican congressional representatives who dominate these districts, nor the state and local officials who are mostly Republicans, nor the Governors of states like Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, or Kentucky who are all Republicans

Why is that?

Why are Democrats to blame for boarded up windows in Baltimore, but Republicans get a free pass for creating the thousands of shitholes in their own backyards?

Here’s a fact?  97 OUT OF 100 OF THE NATION’S POOREST COUNTIES ARE IN RED STATES.

Take a moment.  Let that sink in.  Republicans are in charge of 97 percent of America’s shitholes.

 

So now, let’s get back to inner cities.  Yeah, many of those areas suck.  Things are awful.  And someone should take responsibility.

But what are the factors that led to slums?  Who’s to blame for that?

I have a theory, and I’m convinced that I’m correct.  Let’s see if you agree.

In the 1950s, a phenomenon social scientists later came to term as “White Flight” began happening.  Whites began fleeing inner cities and moved to the suburbs.  Since White people owned most of the wealth and held all the political and economic power, most cities were left devastated by the mass departure which took place over a long period, generally between 1950 and 1985.  Fewer people with wealth paying taxes meant cities didn’t have as much money.  Stores fell into disrepair.  Sections of cities began collapsing.

During this time, factories closed down or moved to other parts of the country, but more often overseas.  Thousands of them.  Cities that once were home to millions of factory workers who spent their paychecks in town, were left deserted.  Who is to blame for this?  Liberals?

Think again.

Then, neighborhoods were carved up.  People with no power became pawns.  Highways were built, highways mostly intended for commuters and companies making deliveries, and inner cities became reduced to the dark recesses of an off-ramp, an area of town we were instructed not to go into.  Stay away, we were told.  It’s dangerous.  Inner cities didn’t get that way all by themselves.  They were starved.  They were choked.  They were bled dry.  And the skeletons of today are the remnants of centuries of racism and the grotesque failure of an economic system tailored to wealth and power and privilege, while indifferent to its victims.

Yes, conservative economics ruined cities.  Greed ruined cities.  Democrats, who have inherited the messes caused by the past, now get blamed for conditions they couldn’t possibly have prevented.  If you don’t feed something that’s living, eventually it dies.  That holds true for inner-city Baltimore.  It holds true for Dixie, West Virginia (population 315).

It’s conservative economic philosophies and Republicans’ distorted policies that have created the squalor of many inner cities, just as it’s conservative economic philosophies and Republicans’ distorted policies that have destroyed small towns.

We and they are one and the same.

 

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