A few verdicts of my own on the Rittenhouse trial

Whatever the jury decides, let's roll back or ban open carry gun laws

11-11-2021 (issue No. 10)

I’m really grateful for the way subscriber rolls are growing and readers are connecting with what I’m presenting here. I know this newsletter is longer than most, so I’m hoping that the sub-headlines are making it easy to skim.

Contents below include

  • Further thoughts on the Kyle Rittenhouse trial

  • A report on the speech I delivered Sunday to the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago

  • A debate on Bob Dylan’s inert stage presence

  • A discussion of taunting in the NFL

  • Mary Schmich on “Songs of Good Cheer”

  • An acid gospel tune

Mail to: Eric Zorn @ substack

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Thoughts and observations about the Kyle Rittenhouse trial

If jurors are split the way my readers are split on the guilt or innocence of Kyle Rittenhouse, then they’ll ultimately settle on a compromise verdict — probably by acquitting him of the most serious charges he faces two murder counts and one attempted murder count — but convicting him of one of the lesser charges — recklessly endangering public safety with a dangerous weapon, say.

My readership — both here and on social media — skews left and seems to be generally of the mind that the verdict should enhance the idea that society simply cannot and should not countenance civilians taking up arms and intervening on the side of police to quell violent protests.

This view says that it was simply wrong for Rittenhouse to show up in a town roughly 20 miles from where he lived to carry an AR-15 rifle through the streets in an effort to prevent another night of vandalism during ongoing Black Lives Matter protests in August 2020.

“Rittenhouse had absolutely no legitimate reason to be there that night, and I believe he deserves serious punishment,” is how Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown put this argument it in a column that otherwise conceded “the evidence presented so far has mostly supported Rittenhouse’s claims of self-defense.”

Rittenhouse, then 17, shot and killed two protesters who were attacking him, and badly wounded a third who approached him with a handgun drawn and pointed in his general direction.

The opposing point of view, less well represented among my readers, says, well, in fact, if the protesters in Kenosha had a “legitimate reason to be there,” then Rittenhouse and his gun-totin’ pals also had a similar “legitimate reason to be there.”

Protecting property from destructive protesters is a form of counter-protest, a demonstration in favor of the idea that it does not advance the cause of racial justice to pillage the property of innocent business owners.

In that light, the presence of armed civilian guards — untrained and self-appointed though they were — was quite legitimate.

Witness testimony has also weakened a common argument from many of my readers that Rittenhouse went to Kenosha hoping and planning to shoot someone that night — “hunting humans,” as one put it.

But the image of Rittenhouse emerged from the state’s witnesses as well as his own testimony Wednesday was of a dorky, deluded wannabe who fancied himself a medic, a peacekeeper and a hero — a kid in over his head who spent much of the evening wandering around chirping “medical!?” at people who didn’t want or need his help.

But whether his presence in Kenosha that night was or wasn’t legitimate or if he secretly hoped to shoot someone, Rittenhouse “deserves serious punishment” if and only if he used lethal force in self defense without legal justification. Such justification requires him to have been in reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm from his attackers, according to the law.

I’ve followed much of the trial on a live stream and I watched all of Rittenhouse’s testimony Wednesday, and my conclusion posted just days after the incident that the prosecution is holding a weak hand has only been strengthened.

Though lead prosecutor Thomas Binger was able to expose Rittenhouse as squirrely and not particularly trustworthy on certain details, so much of what happened that night was captured on video that mild hiccups in his testimony will hardly matter.

The short version of events is that a belligerent, profane and ominous protester named Joseph Rosenbaum threatened to kill Rittenhouse and others if he ever caught one of them alone. Rosenbaum later spotted Rittenhouse by himself, cursed at him, chased him at full run and seemed to be lunging for Rittenhouse’s rifle when he closed in on him.

It’s possible jurors will reject Rittenhouse’s claim that he shot four times in quick succession, killing Rosenbaum, because he reasonably feared for his life at that moment. I doubt it.

The furious group that then chased Rittenhouse down the street and took flying kicks and swings at him when he fell was not merely out to disarm an “active shooter” or to detain someone they suspected of having committed a crime.

Those contentions insult common sense.

If the supposedly concerned citizens really considered Rittenhouse an “active shooter” — even though he was not then shooting or even pointing his weapon — they would have and should have kept a safer distance and used their cell phones to report his location to law enforcement officials, many of whom were nearby.

And if they were simply worried Rittenhouse would escape, it would have been easier and wiser to tail him at a distance while alerting police — toward whom he was running — to make sure he was arrested.

No, the pursuers were simply out to beat his ass. To “cranium” him as one person yelled. Can we all please just admit that?

And their desire to kick Rittenhouse’s ass was based on the suspicion or rumor that he had committed a crime — none of those in the pursuing pack had actually witnessed the Rosenbaum shooting, after all, and had no way of knowing whether Rittenhouse had acted in lawful self-defense.

So enough of the nonsense that those who chased him down were heroes. They were vigilantes, and I keep hearing over and over that we’re supposed to despise vigilantes.

Rittenhouse appeared to break into wracking sobs on the witness stand Wednesday when his lawyer led him into discussing the events leading up to the Rosenbaum shooting.

Was he faking it? My Twitter feed lit up with mocking claims that it was obviously an act — not even a very good act! — designed to win sympathy from jurors. Some claimed that no tears were visible on his face, proving it was a false and calculated display.

If it was an act — and, I dunno, it doesn’t seem farfetched to me that someone on trial for murder and facing life in prison might be overcome with emotion while testifying— it was a risky bit of theatrics. The trial had been going well for him up to that point. As a Tribune news story posted Tuesday afternoon said:

Several key (prosecution) witnesses offered testimony that seemed to bolster the self-defense argument, including the man he injured.

(Gaige) Grosskreutz, the only man to survive being shot by Rittenhouse, testified he believed some people chasing Rittenhouse down the street intended to hurt the teen. Grosskreutz, a trained paramedic, also confirmed he had a gun in his right hand and pointed toward the teen as he took a step in his direction after Rittenhouse fatally shot Huber.

And arguably the state’s most credible witness, professional videographer Richard McGinniss, told the jury an unarmed Rosenbaum lunged for Rittenhouse’s gun before being shot.

Why would Rittenhouse take the chance that even one juror would spot a phony crying jag and hold it against him during deliberations?

Overall, the lengthy cross-examination of Rittenhouse didn’t seem to go well for the state. Prosecutor Binger took Rittenhouse step by step, moment by moment through his actions during the critical moments that night in an attempt to portray the situation as some sort of logical chess game in which, at every second, Rittenhouse should have weighed an assortment of options and conducted a comprehensive threat assessment before making his next move.

I doubt this attempted imposition of hindsight will persuade jurors to convict Rittenhouse on any of the most serious charges. He was in a tense, fast-moving, highly threatening situation and was acting on impulse, instinct and adrenaline — probably like those who pursued and attacked him.

Yes, Rittenhouse put himself into that situation, a situation where he didn’t need to be. But also putting themselves into situations where they didn’t need to be that night were the people he killed and wounded along with hundreds of other people.

And yes, Rittenhouse was arguably unwise to be patrolling the streets of Kenosha and it was arguably provocative for him to be carrying around a military-style rifle.

But Wisconsin law doesn’t view the open carry of firearms as a provocative act. And the fact that Rittenhouse was several months too young to possess that gun legally (a misdemeanor offense for which he is charged) did not — many howling, uninformed opinions to the contrary — strip him of his right to self defense when attacked.

This case has stirred up ridiculous and irrelevant passions on both sides that have unfortunately magnified the stakes on the verdict.

A sweeping acquittal (on everything but the misdemeanor gun possession charge, which looks like a sure guilty) will play as a repudiation of Black Lives Matter and encouragement to gun-totin’ civilians, mostly right wingers, to take the law into their own hands more often and with more gusto.

A conviction on the most serious charges will play as a repudiation of gun rights and a blow to those who believe that citizen militias ought to be able fight back against destructive street protesters. A conviction will be seen as a victory for racial justice — even though all the main players are white.

But this is just one trial based on one unusual and distinct set of facts. There’s hardly been an epidemic of gun battles at protests in this country either before or since this incident.

It’s not fair to anyone — Rittenhouse or those he killed — to frame the verdict in a broader context or hope for a jury decision that sends some sort of political message to the nation.

Once this case is in the rear-view mirror, lawmakers ought to tighten restrictions on the carrying and display of firearms where unruly protests are occurring. New laws ought to allow mayors, county officials or governors to declare gun bans for limited times in limited areas during times of unrest to minimize the chance that similar tragedies will occur.

Closing arguments will likely happen next week, unless Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder surprises us on Thursday and grants a defense motion for a mistrial with prejudice (meaning Rittenhouse would go free and could not be retried) based on alleged prosecutorial misconduct.

I expect we’ll have a verdict to discuss by next Thursday’s issue of the Picayune Sentinel. Don’t miss it!

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My speech on the “perils of public discourse” reveals the identity of the true targets of “cancel culture.”

The indignation, the vitriol, the bitter accusations and the threats aimed at those whose views are seen as threatening to political orthodoxy do, yes, sometimes cause them to be fired or prompt them to resign. Other targets simply lose income opportunities.

But the real point of the organized obloquy from the far left and the far right is not to harm the reputation or job prospects of individuals. Many of the targets are, ultimately, fine …

No, the main goal, the main purpose of most forms of attempted “cancellation” is to strike fear into the hearts of those who have opinions – reasonable, thoughtful, even majority opinions --- that cut against group-think but who are comparatively powerless –who don’t have tenure or supportive supervisors or bank accounts that can sustain them through periods where they are deemed too controversial to employ.

The main point is to intimidate them into silence… to have them think “I’d be wise to shut the hell up. Because I’ll be next.” And that is cancellation. Not the attempted muzzling or browbeating or shaming of one person, but the climate of fear that’s created by such efforts. The message gets out. It silences dozens, scores, hundreds of people whose names and stories you’ll never hear…

Excerpted from the prepared text of a speech I delivered Sunday. You can watch the whole thing plus the Q&A on the video below.

If I can summarize the dissenters who asked questions, the objection seems to be that I am a privileged cis white male whining about the difficulties I and other privileged cis white males have had in platorming our tired old platitudes. Demands for calm, civilized debate are the demands of the patriarchy intent on preserving their power. It’s time for us to listen to the voices of the angry, marginalized, disrespected and abused members of society and stop telling them to calm down.

My response is that it’s not a good political strategy to tell people to shut up, particularly when your demand is rooted in issues of identity. Trying to browbeat and shame others into adopting your position seldom works, and in fact stands to nudge them in the opposite direction.

Disagree? I will post and perhaps engage with thoughtful counterarguments to those made in my speech in next week’s Picayune Sentinel.

Send dissenting email

The video link is here. The Ethical Humanist Society has disabled playback on other websites.

Tangled up in blah — my friends react to my annoyance with Bob Dylan’s dull stage presence

The following passage from the Sun-Times review of last Wednesday’s Bob Dylan concert at the Auditorium theater jumped out at me:

After concluding the main set with the loping roadhouse blues “Goodbye Jimmy Reed,” Dylan made his lone address to the audience. “We’re happy to play here,” he said. “We love Chicago, just like you do.”

Italics mine. The paragraphs gave me a flashback to July, 1986, when Johanna and I went to see Dylan at the now defunct Poplar Creek Music Theater in Hoffman Estates on a double bill with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

I’d been a huge Dylan fan since college and considered him a musical and lyrical genius (still do). My anticipation could scarcely have been higher. But his wooden, nearly mute stage persona between songs was a huge disappointment. His near complete failure to acknowledge the audience, much less engage with it, felt almost insulting.

I remained a big fan, and even wrote a column in 1997 headlined Nobel for Dylan? Don’t think twice, it’s all right.

Within a few weeks, the Swedish Academy will announce in Stockholm the winner of this year's Nobel Prize for literature. … I know who it ought to be. …

There may be writers who conjure the ache of lost love with more precision, who use metaphor more skillfully to express political outrage, who tell allegorical tales with more interesting imagery, who are better at expressing joy and who exhibit more insight about regret. But no one does it all better than Bob Dylan.

For those in the Swedish Academy still wondering upon whom they should bestow the most coveted prize in letters, the answer is not blowing in the wind. It's right here.

Nineteen years later, they heeded my suggestion.

Anyway, I posted the above Sun-Times paragraph to my Facebook wall and asked simply “What is Bob Dylan’s effin’ problem that he can’t engage more with his audience?”

I haven’t tallied the sentiments in more than 200 responses, but it was interesting split between those who consider Dylan an insufferable jerk who doesn’t care about the people who pay big bucks to see him play and those who think his bland indifference between songs doesn’t matter in the least because the music is everything.

Here’s a sample of the criticism:

You can have your “Hello Cleveland!” faux enthusiasm. Miles Davis was never a bundle of onstage warmth either. There are a lot of very nice musicians whose music is comparatively warm and shallow. How folks respond to Dylan says as much or more about them as it does him — D.McL

Do theater actors talk to the audience? Do opera, symphony and ballet performances involve big howdy-dos during their shows? I'm not sure why it's required. I went to hear Dylan and to experience how he is arranging his art. No need for chit-chat. — LW

I don't care if a performer speaks to the audience—somehow I have never seen "Make Friends With The Artist" printed on a ticket. The musicians I've seen who had a reputation for being surly—Miles Davis, Bob Dylan—showed up on time and played well with the kind of spontaneity that makes a live performance so much more exciting than even the best recordings. That's what it means to treat an audience with respect. — AC.

It's like going to the symphony. No one expects the first chair to say that we're such a lovely audience. PM.

Engage more? His music engaged all night. That's far more engaging than your apparent frustration he isn't telling jokes or asking how ya doing Chicago. Geez. - MG

He's Bob F'ing Dylan! He plays, you listen. The end. JM

My last word is that I go to see a performance, not just a musician. I want to get a better sense of the artist as a person than I would just listening to the music. And the great performers all seem to know that and provide both a great musical and personal experience.

News & Views

Yes, there is a difference between taunting and celebrating

I was cursing at the television Monday night just about as vehemently as Bears linebackers coach Bill McGovern, was apparently cursing at Cassius Marsh on the sidelines for having drawn a critical taunting penalty with a little more than three minutes to go in a close game.

Idiot! Moron! Doofus! Amid many unwholesome words.

Marsh, who had just been called up from the practice squad, sacked Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for a 7-yard loss on third down near midfield which would have forced the Steelers to punt to the Bears who were trailing at that point by just three points.

Marsh celebrated with a martial-arts kick, which was fine. The NFL has greatly relaxed restrictions on celebrations. But then, rather than retreating to the Bears bench to receive atta-boys from his teammates, he walked from the point of the sack — on the hash closest to the Bears bench — across the field to about six steps inside the hash closest to the Steelers bench to defiantly stare down the opposition.

Yes he was taunting. Taunting doesn’t have to involve words — in fact, body language is often the main ingredient in taunting. And yes, you could argue that Marsh was entitled to a little “how do you like me now?” posing given that the Steelers had released him earlier in the year.

But the NFL has tightened considerably its restrictions on taunting. So a referee flagged Marsh, resulting in a Steelers first down. This turned into a field goal that was the difference in the Bears’ two-point loss.

It was an accurate call rooted in a good rule. Taunting is bad sportsmanship and it promotes fighting. The Sun-Times quoted Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, a member of the NFL’s competition committee:

This game being played at the highest level, we understand that people who play at a lower level watch us and often mimic the things we do and how we conduct ourselves, …And just largely as a league competition committee specifically, there was a desire to improve in that area. That’s been expressed to our guys.

The Steelers are among the 14 teams that have drawn no taunting penalties this year. So far the Bears have three, tied for the most in the league.

How hard is this for amped up guys to remember? Celebrate all you want with your teammates. Perform those odd stunts in the end zone. Chest bump. Karate kick. Whatever. Don’t direct it at the other team and you’ll be fine.

That said, the ref should have recognized how pivotal such a call would be at that stage of the game and how comparatively minor the taunting was. He should have used the discretion that refs have to exercise on every play and kept the flag in his pocket.

Adam Kinzinger for president?

From CNN:

(U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon) is considering at least a statewide run (in Illinois) if not a presidential one, and (said) that he'll "probably" make his decision on whether to launch a bid for governor or senator by January (2022).

"The key is, how do we restore the honor of the party in the country?" Kinzinger told CNN, adding that he "definitely" wouldn't rule out a White House run in 2024.

A presidential bid would be a long shot for the Illinois Republican, who voted to impeach Trump and has become one of the most vociferous critics of the former President and his own party.

As I’ve said many times, I admire Kinzinger as a man of principle even though I don’t share many of his political views and can’t imagine ever actually voting for him. But as an anti-Trump Republican, I don’t see where he stands a chance.

FiveThirtyEight reports A Majority Of Republican Voters Actively Want Trump To Run For President Again:

A Quinnipiac University poll conducted Oct. 15-18 found Trump has an 86% favorable rating and just a 10% unfavorable rating among Republican adults. And he already dominates early polls of the 2024 Republican primary. ...(And) given Trump’s strong influence within the GOP, few other Republican politicians would likely dare to run against him anyway.

Much was said about how the new congressional boundaries made it almost impossible for Kinzinger to win re-election next year, prompting him to announce that he won’t run.

But given the suffocating influence of Trumpism on the MOP (Mediocre Old Party) I don’t see any way the Democrats who drew the maps could have drawn a district where Kinzinger would be likely to survive a primary against a Trump backer.

I don’t see why that won’t hold true for the entire state if he runs for governor or U.S. Senate in 2022, or for the entire country if he makes a bid for the presidency two years after that.

Though there is a slim chance, I suppose, that the party will come to its senses by 2024, remember its roots, reject the madman of Mar-a-Lago and turn its lonely eyes to a man of integrity.


But, like I say, slim.

Word Court

Say bye-bye to “bye week”

Sportswriters and fans typically use the term “bye week” to describe a week when a football team has a break in its regular season schedule.

But a “bye” in tournament-speak is an automatic advancement to the next bracket without having to play a game or a match. It typically occurs when the number of teams or players doesn’t fit neatly into a tournament template — when the 14 basketball teams in the Big 10 are vying for spots in an eight-team playoff at the end of the season, for example, and the higher-seeded teams don’t have to compete in “play-in” games among the lower-seeded teams.

A “bye” is a reward for having a better record (or, occasionally, a “bye” is a free pass when an opponent has to forfeit). It’s not just an off-date, like every team gets during the season, or an open date.

Do we refer to the more than 25 days when Major League Baseball teams don’t play during a typical season as “bye days”?

Objection to “bye week” is sustained!

Avoid “woke”

Careful readers or viewers may note that I did not once in my speech use “woke” to describe the insufferable, pitiless, self-righteous guardians of far-left group think. That was deliberate, as the word itself seems to set people off.

James Carville, commenting on the mediocre performance of Democrats in the Nov. 2 elections, came under heavy criticism for this remark:

What went wrong was just stupid wokeness. Just defund the police lunacy, take Abraham Lincoln's name off of schools? People see that, and it's just really have a suppressive effect all across the country. The Democrats, some of these people need to go to a woke detox center or something.

There’s undoubtedly merit to the argument that Democrats at least failed to counter the messaging that their party was in the thrall of the abolish-police, empty-the-prisons, promote-white-guilt faction that turned off moderate voters who, for some damn reason, are not turned off by the manifest evidence that the Republican party is in the thrall of nationalists, aspiring fascists and conspiracy kooks.

But “woke” has become a fightin’ word, and the court is belatedly following the guidance of NPR correspondent and host Sam Sanders, who in 2018 offered a commentary titled “It’s Time To Put ‘Woke’ To Sleep.”

As I wrote earlier this year,

In its original meaning in Black vernacular, “woke” meant having a heightened and constant awareness of issues of racial justice.

“I been sleeping all my life,” says a character in Black playwright Barry Beckham’s 1971 work “Garvey Lives!” about Black activist Marcus Garvey. “And now that Mr. Garvey done woke me up, I’m gon’ stay woke. And I’m gon’ help him wake up other Black folk.”

The word gained currency with the rise of Black Lives Matter — “Stay Woke” was the title of a 2016 documentary on the movement and “became shorthand for a mindset and a worldview that values Black lives,” said Sanders, who is Black.

That mindset is good thing in the opinion of the court, and the word was made even better when its definition expanded to include consciousness of the struggles of other marginalized people.

But “woke” was fairly quickly hijacked by the right and became basically a slur — or at best a “linguistic eye-roll,” as Sanders put it — deployed to suggest earnest, performative liberal excess and hypersensitivity.

It’s a crisp sneer, one the court admits to using itself in moments of frustration and exasperation at the looniest pronouncements of the left. But hurling “woke” ends up trivializing the very real concerns in which the word originally had roots and abets the comprehensive effort to mock and minimize those concerns.

Again, I don’t deny using the word informally and I understand the near irresistibility of such a crisp shorthand for such a widely understood phenomenon. I have no problem in general insulting the highly judgmental, more-enlightened-than-thou warriors for ideological purity who are damaging the long-term prospects for the causes they believe in. But using “woke” isn’t winning the right hearts and minds.

Land of Linkin’

  • Does icing the kicker work?A very deep dive into the data concludes that calling a time-out to give a field-goal kicker an extra minute to ponder the task ahead makes it less likely that the kick will be good, particularly a long kick.

  • Charlie Meyerson’s daily, mid-morning newsletter Chicago Public Square reported that it lost a subscriber Monday for offering “Too little news, too much liberal opinion.” Bah! Let’s replace that loser, shall we?

  • “Saturday Night Live” cast member Cecily Strong’s amazing and deeply personal commentary on abortion while in the persona of a clown last weekend was pure genius. My respect and admiration for her, already very high, grew significantly.

  • In powerful column from Clarence Page ‘Defund the police’ is a political dud, but now what? he writes, “Recent elections show ‘Defund the police’ to be what I expected all along, a slogan better suited for the streets than the ballot box.”

Mary Schmich’s Wednesday Post / Cheer Chat

Next month I’ll be hosting “Songs of Good Cheer” with my former colleague Mary Schmich, who wrote about the event yesterday on Facebook:

Songs of Good Cheer is back — live!

Way back at the end of the 20th Century, I wrote a column in the Chicago Tribune lamenting how few people sang holiday songs together anymore. My friend and colleague Eric Zorn read it and issued a dare: Let’s put on a singalong.

Along with a group of great musicians from the Old Town School of Folk Music, we started with a single show, not sure there was an appetite for this wacky idea.

But there was. By 2019, we were up to six shows a year, all of them sold out. Then the pandemic came. Singing together was taboo. So we put on a virtual show, and kept the tradition rolling.

Now it’s 2021. We’re still in a pandemic. Eric and I left the Tribune at the end of June.

But with masks and vaccines—and an abundance of caution and good cheer—we’re putting on live shows again this year. We’ve already sold a lot of tickets but this announcement is for anyone who’s been dawdling.

One thing we’ve loved about the show through the years is the testimonials from people who come. They’re people of all ages, diverse faiths, and diverse musical inclinations. People have come to the show on their first dates. One couple got engaged at the end of a show. Many have come one year then come every year afterward, creating a new tradition with family and friends.

“I'm Jewish and don't really celebrate Christmas,” one man wrote a couple of years ago. “I'm so tired of Christmas spectaculars, each trying to outdo the other. This is just fun.”

Fun in the pandemic will be a little different, we know, but we hope that if you’re comfortable gathering—with precautions—you’ll join us. All the information is below.

Who we are: The band members are professional musicians, most of whom teach at the Old Town School. They play a wide variety of styles on a variety of instruments that include guitar, harp, ukulele, saxophone, fiddles, bass and washboard.

This year’s band consists of Paul Tyler, Gail Tyler, Barbara Silverman, Steve Rosen, Zacbe Pichardo, Lanialoha Lee, Anna Jacobson, Roy McGrath, Zahra Glenda Baker, Aaron Smith and Fred Campeau.

I play the piano and a little mandolin. Eric plays fiddle and makes jokes.

You, the audience, sing. No skill required. The band will make you feel like a virtuoso.

We’ll give you a lyrics book to make singing along simple. You get to take it home.

Where: Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. The school is in Lincoln Square, a vibrant neighborhood full of restaurants, cafes, shops and pubs. It’s a great spot for dinner or drinks before or after the show.

Why: Because in the hubbub of the holidays—and the exhaustion of the pandemic—most of us are looking for a little peace and connection.

The songs: We sing many of the songs you know and love, along with a couple of great new ones that we guarantee you’ll go home humming. The show will last a little under two hours, including a short intermission.

When: Friday, Dec. 10, 7:30; Saturday, Dec. 11, 3 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 12, 4 p.m.

COVID precautions: Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours is required for all concert attendees, regardless of age, and masks are required for all attendees. All members of the band are vaccinated but we won’t always be wearing our masks. Full details are here:

Kids: Kids are welcome. Just remember that all unvaccinated attendees, including kids, will need to show a negative COVID test within the previous 72 hours.

Video: We’re working on making a video of one live performance that will be made available later in December. Details will be available later through the school.

Tickets: $50 general public, $48 Old Town School members.

Tickets can be bought online at ots.fm/sogc2021; by phone (773-728-6000) from 10-6 M-F and 10-4 on weekends; or in person at the school in Lincoln Square on Fridays 1-4.

A portion of ticket proceeds will go to the McCormick Foundation Communities Fund. Over the years, the show has raised nearly $750,000 for charity.

Come sing with us. And feel free to share this post!

Minced Words

We spent a lot of time during Wednesday’s Mincing Rascals podcast talking about the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. The cross examination of Rittenhouse was proceeding as we recorded. We then discussed the political prospects of rogue Republican Adam Kinzinger, the deceptions of Aaron Rodgers and the value of taunting in the NFL.

Subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts. Or bookmark this page.

Re: Tweets

This week’s nominees for Tweet of the Week:

  • The War on Christmas cannot end until Christmas stops its illegal occupation of November …@classywarfare

  • My landlord told me he needed to talk to me about how high my heating bill is. I was like, come on over, my door’s always open ….@thatdentaldude

  • Turn back your clocks, America. Not you, Texas. You’ve done enough … @SethN12

  • I stay in shape by constantly digging my own grave. …. @That_Damn_Duck

  • Don't tell me "nothing could be further from the truth" because I will repeat what made you say it but add "and then I saw Bigfoot" just to prove you wrong ….@MelvinofYork

  • Why is it called meteorology when the weather is almost never meteors? I am exhausted by the lies. …@thepaulasuzanne

  • As Oscar Wilde once said, there's only one thing worse than being talked about, and that's being roped in to help a friend move …@craiguito

  • If someone says "I'm only human" be careful because that's exactly what a robot would say. …@ozzyunc

  • I’ve never paid for sex. *looks at kids’ tuition bills* Well, not on the front end. …@UnFitz

  • Self deprecation should be an Olympic event. Not that I could ever win … @itsBABYSMITH

Click here to take the poll

For poll instructions and guidelines if you need them, click here.

Today’s Tune

I have a fondness for traditional country gospel music that tends to surprise those who know that I grew up in a secular household and am not religious. But I was greatly influenced as a child by Bill Pierson, a down-the-street neighbor who also happened to be married to a great friend of my mother’s since her childhood in Bloomington, Indiana.

Bill, a research chemist by profession, was a terrific piano, guitar and mandolin player who had grown up singing country gospel, and he was the main force behind The Bloodwashed Throng, an acoustic quartet that included my father and played gigs for fun around Ann Arbor.

I have yet to make YouTube versions of any of the archival recordings of the BWT, but “Are You Washed in the Blood?” by the Louvin Brothers is a representative song.

While I don’t resonate with the muscular Biblical message of this and similar songs I love the lyrical power, the imagery and the melodies. “I’ll Fly Away” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” are similar songs in the same genre but lack the whiff of brimstone that makes this so exquisite.

Bill died more than 20 years ago. His daughter loaned me his guitar — an old Gibson — and I play it all the time, often accompanying songs just like “Are You Washed in the Blood?” and remembering all the times he invited me to play with him.

Thanks for reading!

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