GREAT THOUGHTS SOMETIMES ESCAPE ME

Random Musings by Rich Paschall

Often I have great thoughts, frequently while driving my car, which I mean to write down as soon as I get home.  Usually, I forget.  Life intervenes.  They may not be ideas for an entire blog post, perhaps they are just interesting one-liners.  Many have drifted away.  Here are some I remember.

I noticed that cotton candy does not taste much like cotton, although I do not munch on cotton much.

I notice the White Zinfandel is actually pink.

drinks table dinner

I also noticed that buffalo do not have wings.  If they did I would guess they would be quite large.

Is there any surprise who Billboard’s Holiday 100 had at the top of the Christmas song play list this year?  Radio airplay, sales data and streaming activity, all measured by Nielsen, put a familiar group at the top: All I Want For Christmas Is You (Mariah Carey), Rocking Around The Christmas Tree (Brenda Lee), The Christmas Song (Nat King Cole), Jingle Bell Rock (Bobby Helms) and of course White Christmas (Bing Crosby).

So if radio stations gave up to two months of their programming to holiday music and half of that music was religious but not Christian, do you think right-wing Republican heads would explode?

So here people who have been ticketed for running red lights and have been caught by red light cameras, condemn the city for having red light cameras and want them removed.  I guess it is the same for speed cameras.

Last week we had a sleet attack of what turned out to be heavy and wet ice pellets accumulating greater than usual.  You could shovel it like snow, but many did not.  Some did not even bother to clean off their stairs.  Now the temperature has dropped and the stuff is hard like a rock.  It is a true hazard and I wonder how some of these people get up the stairs to get in and out of their houses.

Shovel it!

Shovel it!

Snow and ice-covered sidewalks are not only difficult for the mailman and other delivery persons, they can make the elderly and handicapped prisoners of their houses and apartments.

When I say mailman, I mean men and women letter carriers.  I could see some of you were about to write gender equality speeches to me.

When I say letter carriers I mean those men and women who deliver mail and packages.

If I make a mail delivery faux pas statement, I have a cousin who is a postal worker who is glad to slap me up side of the head.  I love you anyway, Milan.

I notice the Republican clown car has a few less Republicans than when it started out on its cross-country trip.

After the Republican debates, the Pulitzer Award winning news organization, Politifact, consistently finds statements by the candidates to be mostly false.  This does not seem to bother supporters of these candidates.

Donald Trump:

“We’re practically not allowed to use coal any more. What do we do with our coal? We ship it to China and they spew it in the air.”

Coal is the biggest source of energy for electricity in the United States.

Kentucky elected a Republican governor whose campaign pledges included a promise to dismantle Obamacare in the state.  A lot of Kentucky citizens are angry that they are going to be losing their healthcare.  You get what you vote for.

Kentucky was one of the Affordable Healthcare Act’s biggest success stories with a big drop in the uninsured.  Soon Kentucky can figure out how to deal with all the people who show up at hospitals without insurance.

Let’s have a show of hands.  How many think that the US Middle East policy has been a success at any point in the last 60 years?  OK, that covers my lifetime.

Let’s have a show of hands.  How many think that we should have no further gun regulations whatsoever in this country?  OK, that looks to be just the few NRA members in the back of the room.

When the Second Amendment was enacted I think people may have been using muskets for guns.  You know, single ball, one shot at a time things, not AK 47 assault weapons.

A lot of people see red when you start talking about the Second Amendment.  Remember it is not a religious thing and it was not handed down by god.

Top 10 lists, entertainment articles and short stories with happy endings are much more popular than my political commentaries.

On New Year’s Eve it looked like many people were buying cheese, crackers and beef sausage rolls at the supermarket along with the usual assortment of wines, beers and champagnes.

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With all those people buying wine and “Champagne” the super market should have had more checkout people over 21 years of age.  “21 on check-out 3.”

French wine producers in the Champagne region hate it when others call their sparkling wines “Champagne.”  You probably had sparkling wine on New Year’s Eve.  Real Champagne is not cheap.

I am happy to have had another year here at SERENDIPITY to give you Sunday articles, as well as an occasional extra day.  I am grateful that Marilyn is here to illustrate most of them, no matter what the topic, and often on short notice.   Her readers have been gracious to my every changing topics.

When I started here two years ago I mentioned to Marilyn that some of her readers may not like the types of things I write.  She said not to worry, just go for it.  Thanks, I did.

WHAT U.S. STATES WANTED TO SECEDE IN 2012?

Not one single state filed anything suggesting secession.

Why? First, because no state government was stupid enough to lose the benefits they get from the central government. Secession is illegal. The Civil War decided the issue and there’s no going back. All of those petitions were put together by groups of discontented sore losers who didn’t understand in the United States, an election decides the issue.

We don’t govern by petition. We protect your right to petition (thank you, First Amendment), but that only means we don’t throw you in jail for doing it, not that your petition has force of law.

The U.S. does not govern by opinion. No matter how often or how loudly you tell the world about your dissatisfaction on the Internet, on social media sites, or anything else, it’s the ballot box where we collect and count votes. We have a constitution. We have laws. We vote. We count votes. The winner is decided, the loser takes his marbles and goes home.

A petition by the losers of an election does not trump the right of the people of the United States to freely elect their representatives. That you have the right to petition doesn’t mean your petition is going to change anything. Its existence is a testament to how free a country this is. Most other places, you’d be jailed or shot.

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The reason that not a single state government has petitioned for secession is because no one running a state is as stupid as these petitioners. They know they can’t go it on their own and aren’t going to try. Not to mention that a state trying to secede is considered to be in rebellion, for which there are serious penalties. As for the argument that we seceded from England, we were never part of England. We were a colony, a far different legal position than that held by a state.

Battle of Lexington and Concord revolution

We did not secede from England. We rebelled against English rule. We are heroes because we won, but had we lost, it would have been ugly. It would have been treason.

Rebellion is a serious matter and the price of losing is dreadful. Rebels are hanged or shot, pretty much universally, so anyone who thinks they ought to rebel needs to be prepared to die.

AN HISTORICAL NOTE: The American colonists’ first choice was not to break away from England. We wanted the rights of full British citizenship and full representation in Parliament. In other words, far from preferring rebellion, we wanted inclusion. We wanted our status as a colony upgraded to the British equivalent of statehood … something that our American secessionist wannabes already have … and are too ignorant to value.

No one is going to secede. Maybe after the alien invasion, things will change. Until then, secession is a non-issue.

congress in session

For the blood-thirsty idiots who think a civil war is a good idea:

The Civil War cost more than 620,000 American lives, above and below the Mason-Dixon line. Death doesn’t care what color uniform you wear or what color skin you have. Dead is dead. The war between the states caused more American deaths than all other wars this nation has fought combined. ALL of them combined. I don’t know the actual percentage of the population that perished in that hideous conflict, the gory legacy of which we are still dealing with 150 years later, but it was a very substantial percentage. Anyone who suggests that doing that again is a good idea is a criminal.

I don’t care what you believe. No one who values human life, believes in God, or has any kind of conscience or moral compass would suggest we take up arms and start slaughtering each other.

The Peacemakers.

If we are unable to live together, we will not survive as a nation. How can anyone claim to care about this country and then suggest we destroy it because they don’t like the President? Does this sound like patriotism?

There are too many people who have yet to grasp the concept that in a contest, there are always winners and losers. You, over there, with the sign and the sour face. You lost. Deal with it.

Respect the constitution. Work within our excellent system of laws. If you don’t respect our government enough to honor its fundamental principles, you really should go live somewhere else, if you can find anywhere else that will have your sorry asses.

Does it surprise anyone that the “leaders” of this bogus “movement” to secede are largely from the same states that produced the glorious Civil War? You think race might have something to do with it?

The number of signatories, assuming that they could be verified as real people, does not come close to a majority of citizens of any state — nor even enough people to elect someone to congress. It’s a bunch of malcontents trying to get media attention. In other words, sore losers.

TIS THE SEASON

This is the “giving season.” Not only does Christmas make many people feel they should give whatever they can afford to those less fortunate, but it is the end of the year. If you are going to donate money as a tax deduction, now is the time.

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Giving is good and worthy, but be careful to whom you donate. There are a huge number of charity scams, some legal, many not. They call on the phone, they send emails. They may solicit you on the street. What’s the real story?


I got a call a couple of months ago from a group supposedly collecting money to help women who have breast cancer. Specifically, this group purports to help woman by giving them money to cover the not-inconsiderable expenses connected with cancer. Any cancer, but breast cancer is currently in vogue. I ought to be on a list somewhere. Probably several lists given the breadth and diversity of my physical issues.

“Our goal,” said the collector, “is to assist women with breast cancer who are financially struggling.”

I asked her if she was offering to give me money or asking me to give them money. Because if she was asking me to give them money, she was calling the wrong woman. But if she was offering to help me out, I would be very grateful for any assistance.

Fake breasts

Nice tee-shirt. No part of the price went to charity, no matter what it says

She seemed confused by my question, so I explained that I am a breast cancer victim. I’m in persistent financial straits, so I should be exactly the type of individual for whom her organization is collecting funds. So, if the goal is to help woman with cancer who need money and they’re offering to give me some, I’d be delighted to give them my address so they could send a check. They already have my phone number. I’d be expecting your check. Not.

She told me to have a good day and hung up.

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So — for whom are they collecting the money? No one ever called to find out if I need help. She did insist they were collecting money for women just like me. I was obviously not on their “to be helped” list — and I’ve never heard of the organization.

No doubt they will use the money they raise to raise more money. Which they will use to line their own pockets. No one will ever benefit from it except the fundraisers. Another scam.

"Direct cash" is what they really give to someone other than themselves.

“Direct cash aid” is what really goes to support causes — about 5%.

Which is how these things seem to work. Have you ever heard of anyone actually getting any help from one of these groups? Ever? Even a rumor of someone who knew someone who heard about someone who was helped by such an organization? I haven’t. Not one person anywhere ever.

Tee shirts: I have a few breast cancer tee shirts. Some were gifts. One I bought because it made me laugh. Do not assume that any part of the money these transactions goes to charity. It doesn’t. Tee shirt makers’ personal bank accounts are the only cause they support.


I got a note from a friend of mine recently. She asked:

This may seem irrational, but …

I have some bitter feelings about ACS, left over from when my Mom was dying of multiple myeloma (think Geraldine Ferraro) back in the early 1980s, when there really was no treatment for that devastating disease. As her caretaker (and single parent, low-income but employed), I was feeling desperate and alone one time so I called the local chapter. The person who answered the phone day was curt and dismissive, telling me that the only way they could help was by giving us rolled bandages — which my Mom didn’t need. I like to think it would be different now, but ever since that phone call (just a fluke?) I have taken a dim view of ACS.

Not surprisingly, The Charity Navigator, a group that rates charities and how much of the money they collect actually gets to someone other than themselves, rates the American Cancer Society poorly. Two out of five stars.

I answered her as follows (this is my actual answer, with identifying information omitted for privacy reasons):

To the best of my knowledge, this is not an organization that has ever helped anyone. Ever. I called them when Jeff had cancer and they were just as helpful to me as they were to you. This is one of many “charitable organizations” that seems to exist to collect funds so they can collect more funds. And pay their CEO a princely salary (more than a million dollars annually). As far as I’m concerned, they’re a legal scam. They don’t help anyone.

Exactly who does get the money? Good question. Worth asking. When you get fundraising calls, it’s normal to want to give, if you can. After all, it’s for charity. Isn’t it?

worst charities

Most of the money ends up supporting the fundraisers.

Maybe. Maybe not. Before you open your checkbook, find out who they help. Where the money goes. Many “legitimate” groups — the bigger and better known especially — give almost nothing to help anyone or anything except themselves.

Typically, the percentage that goes to “serving those in need” is less than 5% of the total funds collected. If you gave $10, that’s 50 cents. Not much of a return on your investment. This doesn’t take into account the actual scams of which there are a frightening and rapidly growing number.

If you give to one of them, you have thrown your money away. For nothing and no one. How people can use other people’s suffering to enrich themselves? I don’t know, but, it’s done all the time. By many people.

salvation-army

A word about the Salvation Army. Although they do some good stuff, they charge high prices for donated items. I have seen clothing I donated tagged at prices so high that I couldn’t afford to buy it back. I no longer donate to them. Instead, I find groups who give clothing and other necessities to those who need it — free. Our church collects coats and other warm clothing, as do most churches in cold winter areas. There is also Planet World and other groups.

A FEW GOOD CHOICES

Catholic Charities of USA and associated local chapters support food pantries, free clinics, emergency programs for anyone who needs help regardless of religious affiliation. The American Kennel Club helps dogs, all kinds of dogs, purebred and not. The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) provides legal assistance. Whether or not the work they do is something you choose to support is a different issue, but they do live up to their charter.

On the negative side, there’s the United Fund which exists to collect money to support its efforts to collect money. PETA doesn’t give anything to anyone except maybe each other. The American Breast Cancer Association (zero out of four stars) is a legal scam as is the Breast Cancer Prevention Fund  (one star) and there are many more.

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Your local church, synagogue, or mosque is a far better investment. Local religious groups do a lot of good in their communities, quietly, without fanfare. Usually behind the scenes and for free.

Direct charity is always a great choice. If you have a friends who having a hard time, help them. At least you will know your money went where it’s genuinely needed.

Bigger is not necessarily better, especially when you’re talking about charities. Big publicity campaigns mean that big money is being spent and not on helping people or doing research.

Most national charities have local chapters — and they do the real work. Local chapters need to raise funds themselves to continue their work because the national groups keeps the money for their own purposes — usually raising more money and paying high salaries to executives.

Donate to local groups rather than the national organizations.

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Finally, lots of charities have similar names. You need to know the precise legal name of the group. Scams and legitimate groups sound the same when spoken quickly by a solicitor on the phone. Don’t donate to street collectors or telephone solicitors unless you personally know the group and what they do.

Ask for literature. If they don’t have any, it’s a scam. Even the smallest groups have a leaflet of some kind. Do not assume a website means anything. You know how easy it is to create a website … fake address and all.

Old South Church steeple

Ask questions. Do your homework. For many of us, finding a little money to donate to anyone is a stretch, so before you give, know to whom it’s going.

Otherwise — I’m serious about this — give the money to someone who is struggling. At least you will know your gift helped someone. It won’t be tax-deductible, but that’s not the point, is it?

TURNING SUCCESS INTO FAILURE

Thinking Small, Rich Paschall

Some organizations think big and do big.  You may know such organizations.  You may wonder how they accomplish so much.  How can a social service agency, school, church, or park district pull off grand events with a small budget and a small staff?  Yet, there are quite a number that do it.  What is the difference between them and those that think big and fail?  What is the difference between them and those who just think small?

Image: Mashable.com

Image: Mashable.com

Many think big but fail because they aren’t willing to do the work.  They want to be triumphant, but they are just hoping it will somehow happen. They rely on others stepping up to do what they should be doing.

The truth is that those running an event must step forward. They need to recruit volunteers to do what need doing to guarantee success.  Some leaders are willing to do this, but many others rely on dumb luck. Dumb being the operative word. It’s the dedication to the task that’s important, not luck.

You have to work harder to find potential leaders and willing workers than in years past. So many things compete for our attention. Life is busier than it used to be … and then, there are the apps on our phones, tablets and laptops. We may not be willing to devote the large chunk of time required to make a successful event. If it took five calls to get two people to help out 20 years ago, maybe it takes 10 calls now. Or 20. Is the organization willing to do it?

In many cases, the answer is no.

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Being reliant on Facebook calls to action and church bulletin messages will likely get you nowhere.  It’s the personal touch that matters.

Text messages and email blasts don’t have the personal touch you need to win volunteers. Indeed, it’ll get you very little. We are in the digital age and can contact a lot of people quickly by email, social media, and text messaging, but it’s not a reliable road to success. Such messages get lost in the myriad messages that are posted every day.

So, we actually have to talk to people if we want to get their attention.  We have to pick up the phone.  We have to meet them at events.  We have to stand outside of Church, school, wherever and shake their hands.  Even in the digital age, or maybe exactly because of it, we must reach out to people personally, if we want to help a project meet its goal.

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Then there are those who think small from the start.  They see the modern-day task of making a success so daunting that they prefer not to tackle it at all.  These types of “leaders” obviously are not the ones who brought the organization along over the years, but they are certainly the ones to stall it in its tracks.  Saying it is too hard, or it can’t be done, or people will not step forward anymore is admitting defeat from the outset.  It is also proof that they are in the wrong business.  There is a choice to meet the challenge or run from it.  Some choose to run.  Let them go.

Recently, I was involved in an alumni event that found the organization itself dragging its feet on a number of issues.  When the night of the event came, after months of planning meetings, things did not go smoothly.  Nevertheless, it was the largest alumni event they’d in decades. Yes, decades.  Were they happy with this?

Because of its shortcomings, the pastor promptly declared it would have been better to run an event for 50 or 60 people than this event for 250 — which was much more work and went poorly. The pastor was upset.

Was it personal embarrassment?  No, because he didn’t work on it. Unfortunately, he was looking for ways to place blame rather than looking for how to make events better in the future.

People who step into leadership roles but who have little leadership experience, are likely to torpedo your efforts. Those who have their hands full already and see an event as too much additional work, will likely trip you up. Those who are afraid of embarrassment and will only accept success — never failure — will only minimally succeed. They’ve already set limits on their potential success. Worse, they have unknowingly limited the likely success of the organizations they are supposed to lead.

LIVING IN TWO PLACES

A Tale of Two Cities, by Rich Paschall

Recently The Daily Prompt asked this question: “If you could split your time evenly between two places, and two places only, which would these be?”  Normally I am not a Daily Prompt kind of guy.  I am on the subscriber list, but usually by the time I read the email notice, it is a day or two later and I just delete.  This one sounded rather intriguing, so I stashed it away for later use.

St Petersburg bridgeIf you have been visiting this space regularly, you may have noticed that Marilyn responded to the question when is was posted over a week ago.  If you read SERENDIPITY, her choices would not have been a surprise to you.  If you missed it, you can run right over there now and read her response.  You will find it here.  Don’t forget to come back!

What would you pick?  Would your home town be included?  Would your current residence be a choice?  Remember, in this scenario you can have any two cities.  Shall it be a northern city for summer and a warmer climate for winter?  I guess you can reverse that if you are in the Southern Hemisphere.  If you are close enough to the Equator, you have no need to move away from the cold.

Maybe you need somewhere exotic as one of your stops.  Fiji comes to my mind.  There must be somewhere in the South Pacific that is warm and inviting.  If you think we must be restricted to cities, then I will say that Nadi, Fiji has about 50,000 people so we will count it as a city rather than a village.  If your home is in Nadi, I guess you can still spend plenty of time on a beach on the other side of the island.

How about a European capital?  I have always found London inviting.  Author Samuel Johnson once famously stated, “…when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”  I guess that could be said of many of the great cities of the world.  I found Rome, Paris and Brussels all to be interesting and vibrant cities.  I have not been to other European capital cities.  Perhaps our choice of two cities should include one unknown and one known.

If you have not been to the other side of the world from where you are, would you chose a city solely on the recommendation of others?   Would you do an internet search of other places, or strictly stay with what you know?

When my father retired and moved from the cold of the Midwest to Florida, I began to understand the attraction of what they called “snowbirds” in the South.  These were the people who kept their homes in the north, but spent the winters in the south.  I loved Tampa, Clearwater, Sarasota and many of the Gulf cities.  I could see doing exactly that.  Perhaps your second city would be in another warm climate.  Arizona? Southern California? Hawaii?

Actually, it did not take me long to settle on two spots.  When I eliminated the fantasies and considered what is most important, I knew the answers.  First would be Chicago.  It is a world-class city with world-class attractions.  It has major sports teams and fine stadiums, old and new.  It has theater and concert venues and the major shows and Rock and Roll acts make it here when they tour.  There is a lakefront that stretches the entire east side of the city, with open parkland, beaches and museums.  Chicago Skyline

Al Capone does not live here.  We are not the murder capital of the country, we are not even in the top 10.  We do get a lot of publicity when there is crime.  Like every big city, we have big city problems.  I would say these problems are increased by the NRA suing the city over any attempt to keep guns away from gangs and criminals, but that is another column.  We have friendly people who celebrate diversity.

You may not have heard of my other choice.  I guess it is not really a city, but rather a small town of about 20,000 people.  It is in the beautiful Alsace region of France.  You will find small towns with ancient buildings sprinkled among the vineyards.  In the distance on top of some of the hills, you will find castles left from centuries ago.  If you say that this will not do, I must pick a larger “city,” I will move a short distance to the north and the lovely city of Strasbourg, capital of the European Union.

Why would I pick such completely different places on two different continents?  Why would I choose places that have  similar climates, where neither will escape the snow and cold?  How could I spend half a year in a big city and half in a small town which holds none of the major attractions?  The answer to me is quite simple.Selestat

The locale is no longer the most important consideration when deciding where to live.  At one time it may have been important.  When I am retired and tired of shoveling snow, maybe I would desire the warm weather locations.  Now it is about family and friends.  Aunts and cousins of various generations are here in Chicago.  Friends made recently and friends since childhood are here too.

In France is one of my best friends.  He spent a year here in 2009 and when he left we maintained our friendship through visits once or twice a year, here and in France.  When I go to France we always see things I have not seen before, so it is great adventure.  If he was somewhere else in France, then I would name that city instead.  Spending time with family and close friends, no matter where they reside, makes their locations the places I want to be.  For now my choices are Chicago, Illinois and Communauté de communes de Sélestat et environs.  Where are your two homes to be?

LOSING OUR LEGACY

Traditions, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no?

The strength of many schools, churches and community organizations lies in its rituals and traditions.  They provide a constancy that is reassuring to students, members, alumni.  While traditions may seem a bit crazy to some, to most they are cherished as part of their heritage.  Those who do not honor tradition are likely to incur the wrath of those who want to find comfort and solace in the reassure that traditions may bring.

When traditions remain constant throughout the years, they begin to bring identity to organizations.  The school, recreation program, and community center become known for their special features and regular activities.  Identity leads to purpose and purpose leads to dedication and commitment.  Maintaining what you have been good at through the years is important to gathering loyalty.

And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you
in one word… Tradition.Fiddler 73

Consider the years you went to elementary school or high school.  If you should return to those institutions you are likely to ask if the have the same tournaments and games.  You may ask about the basketball, football or baseball teams.  You may want to know if the school still has the Arts Festival, Chorale and Band concerts.  You may be interested in whether the big annual show is still produced, whether you were actually a part of the shows or not.  These were traditions and you want to know if they are still alive.

Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years.

Long lasting and enjoyable traditions will find support in parents and alumni.  Just as everyone wants to feel that they have a purpose and identity, they also want to see that their schools, parks and community organizations maintain an identity and purpose as well.

While some graduates may always feel that their years, their programs and participation were the best years of a school or organization, they will nonetheless support an organization with their word of mouth praises, and perhaps even their dollars, in order to keep the traditions alive.

Because of our traditions, everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to do.

It is true that some remain a part of their school or recreational program throughout their entire lives.  As students become young adults and then parents, they may feel it important to maintain a relationship to those places that were important to them when they were young.  They may even wish to send their children to these same schools and programs.  That it how strong the bond of tradition can be.

In this past week, a former community resident passed away at the age of 90.  From the time I was a child at the local Boys Club until just a few years ago, this dedicated woman was always at the carnivals, festivals, and fund-raisers of all sorts.  It was her passion to be a part of the traditional events each year.  The value of her volunteer service can not be calculated.  The importance of the traditions she helped to maintain was something beyond measure, to her and everyone who knew her.

Unfortunately, leadership comes along in the life of some schools and community groups that does not understand the importance of what they have.  They set about changing things for no other reason than change.  These types of people can quickly tear down what took generations to build.  A decade of bad leadership can wipe out a lifetime of good will and dedication.

When I returned to alumni events in recent years, I was disheartened to see the lack of concern for the past.  It is not that we were better than anyone else, but it is that we had identity in our long cherished events.  For our school, it was the Fine Arts.  The Fine Arts meant nothing to recent leaders which was disheartening to many of us.

When you walk the halls of an old and venerable institution, you like to see the pictures, trophies, art work and sayings of the past.  It is discouraging to know that the school song is unimportant, the traditions are gone and the leadership is oblivious to its importance.  When someone takes away your tradition and legacy, it is time to move on.

Tradition. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as… as a fiddler on the roof!

NO SPORTS, POLITICS, OR RELIGION

Some Old World Wisdom, by Rich Paschall

When thinking of blog topics, there is no shortage of subject matter. Some general areas offer a lot of topics.  With a bit of extra thought, there’s an endless supply. Consider well how many areas you can pursue if you are willing to delve into sports, politics, or religion. Each is bound to set some readers ablaze. Would surely bring lots of comments. You do want lively discussion, don’t you?

How lively do you want it?

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Venture into a sports bar well into the evening and you are likely to find plenty of spirited discussions regarding sports.  These ideas should help you out.  Will the Cubs ever win a pennant?  Will the White Sox ever get the love the Cubs get?  Will the Blackhawks win another Stanley Cup?  Will the Bears defeat the hated Green Bay Packers?  Will the Bulls beat the hated ____________ (fill in New York team here)?  There is little reason get into crosstown rivalries. Dissing out-of-town teams only works locally.

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We could always take off after the Yankees and A-Rod, the Patriots and _______ (name your alleged scandal here), or Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. But why alienate readers in New York, Boston or Dallas? Perhaps we should just write about the ridiculous BCS Bowl series or the commissioner of _________ (name your least favorite here).

A good informational, yet rather neutral article might find favor.  Others might concede that you are trying to make some point of view, like promoting someone’s stats for the hall of fame. A discussion of gays in sports or an Olympic diver coming out of the closet, might get up into your politics, so we may have to think carefully about those.  Yes, we will leave the political area of sports alone.

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Speaking of your politics (or mine), perhaps we can find common ground there. I could write short stories with a political theme, or write about a run for office that brings victory, but no win for the candidate. Too improbable?

How about the death of democracy through campaign spending?  Imagine buying an election. Maybe this hits too close to home … or do you think it merely fiction or satire?  Political satire is sure to get people thinking and arguing, especially if you throw in climate change as the kicker. Then again, maybe no one will bother to read this stuff. Maybe a bad idea after all?

How about hitting the topics head-on in a nice well-researched article? We can talk about Democrats, Republicans, capitalists or socialists. On second thought, that could split the audience from the get-go. Better to look at the subjects of the debates and write a well-reasoned essay.

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Where to begin? Abortion? Immigration? Gay Rights? Civil Rights? Gun Control? Campaign reform? Welfare Reform?  Any reform?? National defense?  Can’t we all consider that without alienating people? There’s always alienating the aliens. Can’t go wrong with that, right? Well, maybe not.

If politics is too risky, how about the world’s great religions? They’re all rooted in love, are they not? We could discuss the philosophies that ignite the passions behind our beliefs and thus find common ground. Peace and harmony at last.

Except that so many people believe their god is the only way. Some believe their god is calling them to harm others which sets religion against religious … and alas, there’s nothing new about that. Belief is supposed to bring hope and joy … not more war.

God in on every side of every war, or so they say. Who goes into battle without the blessing of their particular deity? How can I expect to have a civil discussion in such an emotionally charge arena?  I have innocently had to extract my foot from my mouth before … maybe I should let the Dalai Lama write on this topic.

The "Dodge City Peace Commission", June 1888. (L to R) standing: W.H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, W.F. Petillon. Seated: Charlie Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Frank McLain and Neal Brown.

The “Dodge City Peace Commission”, June 1888. (L to R) standing: W.H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, W.F. Petillon. Seated: Charlie Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Frank McLain and Neal Brown.

Years ago, when one of our favorite innkeepers was still alive, we used to drop by his establishment.  It was a great place for lively discussion. If anyone got a little over-heated, the owner walked over with a wink to say, “No Sports, no politics, no religion!”

Seemingly a strange thing to say when a sports channel was almost always playing nearby, but he meant arguments, not discussions. If arguments got out of hand, he’d say “No Sports, no politics, no religion — or you’re out of here!”

That seemed a good approach to barroom politics. These were the areas of discussion that often ended with unpleasantness. Especially when dialogue was fueled by alcohol. Maybe it short-circuited a few lively discussions, but no doubt he cut off some brawls, too.

Let’s avoid them in the blog-o-sphere and cyberspace too. If Facebook is any indicator, that sounds like a plan!