Advantage, Columbus

Look, I’m a big fan of the Big Apple.  New York City offers so much, and is one of the handful of special American cities that has a unique feel and spirit all its own.  Normally, I wouldn’t even compare Columbus to Gotham, because it’s just not fair.

But now I’ve finally found something where Columbus has the advantage:  Columbus is not steeling itself for the “Summer of Agony” in 2017.  New York City, in contrast, is.

03amtrak-master768It’s supposed to be the “Summer of Agony” in Manhattan because there’s going to be a partial shutdown of Penn Station, one of the principal transportation hubs for NYC commuters, to allow for repairs because the station’s tracks are falling apart.  (In fact, two recent Amtrak derailments are blamed on the crappy quality of the Penn Station tracks.)  The partial closure of Penn Station means that thousands of people who get to their jobs via rail to Penn Station are going to have to ditch their long-standing commuting patterns and find an alternative way to get to work.  And in New York City, there just aren’t that many other options that aren’t already operating at peak, or close to peak, capacity.

So what are people who commute from Connecticut or New Jersey or Westchester County into the City supposed to do in the meantime?  Some people are trying to get temporary housing in Manhattan, and some employers are offering work-at-home options.  But here’s an idea — why not forget the New York City scene altogether and move to Columbus?  It’s cheap, it’s friendly . . . and you’re not going to find much agony here.  In fact, if you shop around, you might just find a place that allows you to take a brisk, refreshing, stress-free 20-minute walk to work.

Sure, Gothamites might scoff at the idea of leaving their land of towering skyscrapers and 24-hour delis for a place out here in “flyover country.”  That’s fine and perfectly understandable . . . for now.  Let’s see how they feel about it after living through the “Summer of Agony.”  A few months of soul-rending, teeth-grinding stress during a two-hour commute might just change a few minds.

Leaking Like A Sieve

We’re living in the midst of the leakiest America in history, and it’s causing lots of problems for our country.

leaky-sieveThe leakiness isn’t confined to just Washington, D.C., the Democratic National Committee, or the confused conduct of the Trump White House, where it seems as though every confidential meeting must end with a dash to the door so that everyone in attendance can call their favorite journalist and recount what just happened in excruciating detail.  Now the leak-fest is also affecting foreign affairs and criminal investigations, too.

The latest evidence of this problem involves the investigation into the horrendous suicide bombing in Manchester, England, where an Islamic extremist specifically targeted kids and their parents at a concert and killed 22 innocents and injured 64 more.  British authorities shared information about the attack, including the name of the bomber and photos of the debris being examined as part of the investigation, with an intelligence network that includes the United States.  Some unprincipled American recipient of the information then promptly leaked the information to the New York Times, which published it.

The BBC is reporting that British officials are furious about the leaks, which could affect the success of their investigation, and have stopped sharing intelligence about the attack and its investigation with American authorities.  British Prime Minister Theresa May also plans to raise the issue with President Trump at this week’s NATO meeting.  Of course, it’s not clear that Trump has any ability to stop the rampant leakiness — he can’t even get his own White House personnel to keep things confidential.

When the profound leakiness in our government invades the intelligence agencies and the criminal investigators, to the point that our allies can’t even trust us sufficiently to disclose information about terrorist attacks that are bedeviling all western countries, then we’ve got serious problems.  Obviously, we want to get whatever information we can about terrorist attacks, so we can use the information to prepare our own defenses and procedures to try to prevent future attacks.  If our allies withhold information because they’re afraid it will be leaked, that not only embarrasses America, it hurts us, too.  And if criminal investigators become as leaky as White House staffers, the confidential investigatory information they provide may help the criminal actor to avoid capture or prevent a fair trial — neither of which is a good thing, either.

The reality is that some things must be kept secret, and if the people in our government can’t keep their mouths shut about the truly secret stuff, then they aren’t qualified to serve in positions where the ability to maintain confidences is a crucial part of the job. We need to determine who is leaking intelligence and investigatory information and thereby imperiling both our relationships with our allies and our own security and replace them.  The leaks have got to stop.

Goat Yoga

When I first heard there was a “goat yoga” fad, I thought it probably involved yoga fiends doing poses that were . . . goat-like.  Just like, for example, yoga features the classic “downward facing dog” pose, or the camel pose, or the cat pose.

Perhaps goat yoga involves poses that involve standing on all fours, or shaking your head and twitching your ears, or eating a tin can, or making the goatish maaaaa sound?

goat-yoga-2But all of that is wrong.  “Goat yoga” evidently just involves doing yoga poses while goats are in the vicinity and — this is apparently especially important — having your picture taken in a yoga pose with the goat teetering on your back, or otherwise visible somewhere, so you can post the picture on your favorite social media outlet.  This story about goat yoga classes in Dallas notes that, for $36 bucks a pop, participants can get in an hour of yoga while more than a dozen goats from a nearby farm wander around, looking photogenic and selfie-friendly so those crucial snapshots can be taken.  Having been around goats at the petting zoo long ago, I’m guessing goats aren’t part of the mix because they emit a zen-inducing fragrance that is especially conducive to ekagra.  In fact, you’d think that having animals roaming around and potentially nibbling at your clothes while you’re working on getting that pose right might interfere with achieving the state of mind that yoga is supposed to help participants attain.

Why do yoga fans like doing their poses with goats, as opposed to sheep or some other moderately sized farm animal?  For that matter, why an animal at all, as opposed to, say, “cabbage head” yoga, or “abandoned sofa” yoga?  Apparently it’s just because people think goats are cute and look good in the inevitable social media selfies.  And they’re willing to part with 36 bucks for the privilege.

This says something about modern society, but I’m not sure what.

 

Invasion Of The Geriatric Rockers

We’re on the cusp of the summer big-name rock concert season.  Hey, who’s out on tour this year?

rod-stewartDon’t look now, but it’s a lot of the same acts that were touring 40 years ago, soon to come to a sports stadium or outdoor amphitheater near you.  The list of tours this year includes Queen, Foreigner, Boston, Aerosmith, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Billy Joel and Rod Stewart.  Rod Stewart, in case you’re wondering, is 72 years old, and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith is 69.  And as for Queen, their iconic lead singer, Freddie Mercury, died more than 25 years ago.  But neither advanced age, nor the death of original band members, nor concerns about wrinkles, hair loss, gum disease, adult diapers or iron-poor tired blood can keep these dedicated rockers from their appointed tours.  Just don’t be surprised if their contracts requires that the dressing room be equipped with Geritol rather than bottles of Jack Daniel’s.

The promoters call these “nostalgia acts” — which doesn’t exactly seem consistent with the whole notion that rock ‘n roll has a youthful, cutting edge, rebellious element to it.  When you’re a “nostalgia act,” around 70 and still playing songs that you first released when disco was king, you can’t fairly lay claim to the “rebellious” label any more. But there’s a strong market for concerts by these geriatric rockers because their music still gets played on “classic rock” radio stations, and the people who first heard their songs when they were in high school are still out there, willing to spring for tickets to hear “Cold As Ice” performed live one more time.  If you’re a performer, why not cash in, make some money, and give your fans what they want?

I’m torn about this, because I think it’s weird to see 70-year-olds strutting and rocking out on stage, and I wonder if these codger acts don’t crowd out younger musicians who’d like to get some stage time and radio play.  At the same time, in the past few years I’ve been to concerts to see two long-time performers — Stevie Wonder and Bob Seger — and they both put on really good shows.  So I’m taking a live and let live attitude, and figuring that if Rod Stewart wants to sing “Hot Legs” again, and his fans want to hear it, why not let them?  But I think I’ll pass.

Corn Kernel Console

Cousin Jeff like to keep the wild creatures in his neighborhood happy.  He’s got a hummingbird feeder, multiple birdseed dispensers, a suet cage — and this marble-topped table strewn with kernels of hard yellow corn.  It’s irresistible to squirrels chipmunks and large birds like crows.

It also makes the early morning hours a fun exercise.  When I sat outside yesterday morning, reading, every few minutes I would hear the drumbeat of tiny paws rushing along the deck, skittering up the table leg, and munching briskly at the corn.  It made the natural surroundings seem a little bit closer, and more real.

Protesting With Their Feet

Yesterday Vice President Mike Pence gave the commencement address at the Notre Dame  University graduation ceremony in South Bend, Indiana.  As Pence began speaking, dozens of graduating students walked out.

22746804-mmmainThe theme of the Vice President’s address was the importance of freedom of speech and tolerance for different points of view, on college campuses and elsewhere.  Many conservative commentators made fun of the students who walked out on Pence’s speech, deriding them as delicate “snowflakes” who simply couldn’t bear to hear opposing views and finding it paradoxical that the students would walk out on a speech that urged them to listen to other, opposing perspectives.

I’ve had a lot of problems with the trampling of free speech rights on college campuses these days, but in this instance I think the critics are wrong.  The Vice President was exercising his free speech rights by giving an address with the content of his choice, and the students were exercising their free speech rights by walking out on the speech as a protest of Trump Administration policies.  The students exited stage left not because they are “snowflakes” who felt they simply couldn’t withstand Pence’s commencement address — a sentiment, incidentally, that many people who have attended overlong, droning college commencement speeches would secretly share — but because walking out was a visible sign of profound disagreement with the views of the speaker.  It’s a form of the kind of silent protest that we’ve seen many times in American history.

In fact, I commend the Notre Dame protesters, because their protest was non-violent and respectful of Pence’s free speech rights.  They didn’t try to shut him up, in contrast to other recent incidents on campus in which agitators have used violence to prevent some people from speaking — such as the mob that shamefully disrupted a lecture by scholars with different viewpoints at Middlebury College and, in the process, gave a Middlebury professor whiplash and a concussion.  The Notre Dame students had every right to “vote with their feet” and send Pence a message that they disagree with what the Trump Administration is doing, and they found an appropriate way to send that message.

I wish more people would listen to opposing viewpoints and try to understand them, but I’m more concerned about people who think that just because they disagree with someone that person shouldn’t be permitted to speak at all — something that is antithetical to one of the most important rights guaranteed to all Americans.  Based on the protest yesterday, I’d say that a Notre Dame education has given those graduates a pretty good understanding of how the Bill of Rights is supposed to work.

Easy Bein’ Green

You can argue about the season in which rural Ohio is at its best.  Throw out winter — of course! — and you could argue endlessly about the lush springs, the blue sky summer days, and the colors and tastes of autumn.

Spring, of course, has its own colors — they’re just more subtle.  Standing on Cousin Jeff’s elevated deck, looking out at the trees and plants and fallen pine needles and grass, you see just about every shade of green you can imagine.  Couple it with cool air that smells of growing plants and bright songs from a number of different birds, and you’ve got a feast for the senses.

Kermit the Frog would fit right in.