Lightfoot leans in to being a prickly mayor who infuriates friends as well as foes
& an Oscar (Rogers) statuette to Republican gubernatorial hopeful Darren Bailey
6-9-2022 (issue No. 39)
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What choice did she have, really?
In a 2-minute, 35-second video announcing she will run for a second term, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot attempted Tuesday to portray her most conspicuous flaws as virtues:
They say I’m tough. They say I get angry. They say, sometimes, I take things personally. You know what I say? They’re absolutely right. When we fight for change, confront a global pandemic, work to keep kids in school, take on guns and gangs, systemic inequality and political corruption only to have powerful forces try to stop progress for Chicago — of course I take it personally, for our city.
Change doesn’t happen without a fight. It’s hard. It takes time. And, I’ll be the first to admit I’m just not the most patient person. I’m only human, and I guess sometimes it shows. But just because some may not always like my delivery doesn’t mean we’re not delivering.
“They” don’t care that Lightfoot is tough and gets angry. Combativeness can be an excellent, even necessary quality in an officeholder. And patience is not always a virtue when confronting multiple crises.
What “they” say is that Lightfoot is also petty, touchy, vindictive and thin-skinned. “They” recognize that her assertion that she takes conflicts “personally, for our city” is an utterly oxymoronic attempt to excuse an alienating, toxic narcissism that has cost her the confidence of a city that elected her with 74% of the vote a little more than three years ago.
“They” remember the assessment of Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza, 10th, once considered a stalwart ally of Lightfoot’s on the City Council: “I have never met anybody who has managed to piss off every single person they come in contact with — police, fire, teachers, aldermen, businesses, manufacturing.”
“They” know that regular ranting, sniping and fits of pique are not evidence of competent, confident leadership — “they” think of how little respect they have for the temperamental bosses they’ve had and the yelling parents they’ve known.
“They” find galling Lightfoot’s implication in the video (and elsewhere) that critics of her administration and her approach to governing are motivated by sexism, racism or homophobia to hold her to unfair standards:
Look, I get it. I don’t look or sound like any other mayor we’ve had before. And I’ve had to fight to get a seat at the table. And, like so many in our city, I’ve had to fight to have my voice heard.
Some have compared Lightfoot’s approach here to then Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s so-called “fuzzy sweater” commercial that aired in 2015 when he was trying for a second term and facing a runoff election. For that commercial, Emanuel donned a V-neck sweater (that was not in the least “fuzzy,” but the description is now canonical) and spoke to the camera:
They say your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness. I’m living proof of that. I can rub people the wrong way or talk when I should listen. I own that. But I’m driven to make a difference. … I’m not going to always get it right. But when it comes to fighting for Chicago and Chicago’s future, no one’s going to fight harder.
Did voters buy Emanuel’s sorry-not-sorry humble brag? Or were they just underwhelmed by the vague, rudderless campaign of Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, his runoff opponent, who offered little more than a litany of tedious gripes along with a “blueprint for the future” that consisted of hopeful musings about the savings he might find by consolidating government services and limiting pensions of future employees?
Emanuel beat Garcia with 56% of the vote, and if Lightfoot gets to a runoff next year against a similarly unimpressive or unpersuasive opponent, she’ll probably win a second term as well, no matter what “they” are saying today.
Last week’s winning tweet
And the Oscar goes to…
I plan periodically to nominate pols for Oscar Rogers Awards. Rogers is a “financial expert” played by Keenan Thompson on “Saturday Night Live” in 2008-09, and his simple solution for every problem was …
Here’s a transcript portion from a 2009 SNL:
Seth Meyers: We all know that our current economic situation has left every American fearful of what’s in store. Oscar, do you see any light at the end of the tunnel?
Oscar Rogers: Well, Seth, there was a light, but it’s broken! And somebody needs to crawl down to the end of that tunnel and FIX IT!
Seth Meyers: Okay, well, that doesn’t sound very promising.
Oscar Rogers: It’s not! These people need to FIX IT! I’ve been a financial consultant for 16 years, and I’ve never seen it this out of control! They need to clamp it down and FIX IT! When I wake up tomorrow morning, it better be FIXED!
Seth Meyers: But how do we go about fixing it, specifically?
Oscar Rogers: Take it one step at a time. Identify the problem. FIX IT! Identify another problem. FIX IT! Repeat as necessary until it is all FIXED!!
Seth Meyers: Uh — you keep saying “fix it,” but how?
Oscar Rogers: FIX IT!
Seth Meyers: Fix what?
Oscar Rogers: IT! It needs to be FIXED! NOW!!
Another representative quote from the fictional Oscar Rogers: “Fix it! It’s a simple three-step process. Step one: Fix! Step two: It! Step three: Fix it! Then repeat steps one through three until it’s all been fixed!”
Goals to solve our most complex problems, in other words, but incredibly skimpy plans.
Nominees from last week’s Republican gubernatorial debate:
Former state Rep. Paul Schimpf, responding to the question, What is the one thing you will do to help us “solve the issue of gun violence?” “We do have to take action on this. Leaders need to lead. But it’s important that we listen first and figure out what solutions actually can help the situation. Leaders need to listen. And we have to do something about mental health, it is a huge issue, we also have to make our schools safer, but most importantly, we have to have a governor who is going to hold himself accountable and say enough is enough.”
Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin on specific steps needed to enhance school safety: “We have to look at this holistically. How do we stop crime generally in the state of Illinois? We’ve got to focus on making sure we support our men and women who wear that badge, who keep us safe every day.”
Businessman Gary Rabine on teaching LGBTQ+ issues in schools: '“We’ve got to be a state that really cares about the growth of our kids. And parents, not politicians, need to be building the curriculum with our teachers. We’ve got a lot of work to do in Illinois. We’ve got to become a state where, hopefully, we can bring God and country back into our schools.
Entrepreneur Jesse Sullivan on the first thing he’d do as governor: “When I’m governor, I’m going to crack down on crime here in the state. We’ve coddled criminals for far too long. I’m going to support law enforcement unequivocally. We’re going to repeal this anti-police bill. We’re going to surge the National Guard to be able to treat this like the crisis that it is. We need safety on the streets of Illinois, and I’m going to bring it.”
Attorney Max Solomon in his closing statement: “Our social and cultural values are under attack. Evil used to hide, ladies and gentlemen. Not anymore. Evil is here, and (it’s) attacking our children. I will protect our kids, their security and safety in our schools and what they learn, and make sure there is no indoctrination, only education.
And the Oscar goes to …
State Sen. Darren Bailey on how to reduce violent crime in Chicago: “Mayor Lightfoot, Governor Pritzker, Kim Foxx and their woke, anti-police politics, they are responsible for this. If we’re going to restore Chicago, somebody’s gotta tell the truth. I said it. And when I’m elected as governor, I’ll fix the problem and we will restore the greatness to Chicago.”
By the way, I would like some kind of lifetime achievement award for single-handedly trying to keep the word “gubernatorial” alive in the face of unwavering opposition in the media.
News & Views
View: It was such an astonishing statement from a lawyer — particularly one with a University of Chicago Law School degree — that I have to chalk it up to a dreadfully inartful expression of a common-sense truth.
Most of those charged with violent crimes will ultimately be found or will plead guilty. Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans is quoted in Wednesday’s Sun-Times saying that 11% of violent felony cases are dropped before trial and another 3.2% result in not-guilty verdicts. So, roughly speaking, 17 out of 20 of those so charged are what you might call pre-guilty and presumptively dangerous.
Many people, including Evans, called out Lightfoot for seeming to disregard the presumption of innocence — a bedrock of our legal system — even though she did mention it in her very next sentence, saying, “Of course (such defendants) are entitled to a presumption of innocence. Of course they’re entitled to their day in court.”
When I wrote about the idea of presuming innocence in a 1994 column, I quoted University of Chicago law professor Norval Morris saying, “The phrase is a moral invocation, a restated reminder of where the burden of proof lies."
Attorney/author Scott Turow, who used "Presumed Innocent" as the title of his bestselling novel about false accusation, told me that the presumption is not meant as a literal or general instruction to the citizenry. "Strictly speaking, the presumption of innocence pertains only to the (jury or judge) once the gong rings to start a criminal trial," Turow said. "We'd have a lot more defendants free on no bond if we took the presumption more broadly. But in fact, presuming someone innocent is more of a mental discipline."
Lightfoot’s point, which got a bit lost after she momentarily seemed to be channeling the Queen of Hearts (“Sentence first, verdict afterwards”) was: “Residents in our community are also entitled to safety from dangerous people, so we need to keep pressing the criminal courts to lock up violent dangerous people and not put them out on bail or electronic monitoring back into the very same communities where brave souls are mustering the courage to come forward and say, ‘This is the person who is responsible.’ ”
Her office later released a statement to try to clean up the mess:
Violent offenders should be held accountable for their actions that harm our communities. They should not be let back into the community unsupervised, which is on the judges in the criminal courts. Every actor in the criminal justice system must be accountable, and that includes the defendants charged with acts of violence and the judges who make pre-trial release decisions.
My guess is that she speaks for a strong majority of Chicagoans who are sick of hearing about violent crime suspects commiting predatory acts while out on bond awaiting trial and are more than eager for harm-reduction strategies. That voters in the liberal San Francisco recalled progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin on Tuesday reflected a growing impatience with crime around the country that Lightfoot wants to benefit rather than suffer from.
But her omission in her statement of the word “alleged” to describe violent offenders was conspicuous and compounded her earlier error.
It’s one thing for a frustrated citizen to cut rhetorical corners when venting. But a mayor needs to watch what she says.
News: Chicago Sun-Times appoints west coast digital media consultant Jennifer Kho as new executive editor.
View: As someone who reads the Sun-Times cover to cover each day I thought the paper was doing well and punching above its weight under the guidance of interim editor Steve Warmbir. But I’m not in the demographic that the paper needs to reach in order to thrive. Nevertheless, I’m interested in and open to innovations that Kho might bring to the product.
Kho is a 1999 graduate of Humboldt State University (now known as California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt) in Arcata, California, roughly 300 miles north of San Francisco. She earned a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley in 2003.
Her job experiences have included 15 months reporting for the now-defunct Fremont Argus (2003-2004); some 2 1/2 years as a staff writer for Red Herring, a site that covers tech startups (2004-2007); 19 months as an editor at Greentech Media, a site that covers green technology (2007-2008); and numerous freelance gigs that culminated in a 2 1/2-year stint as the U.S. editor of Guardian Sustainable Business (2013-2016) followed by 20 months as the U.S. managing editor for the U.K.-based Guardian, a job that ended in the summer of 2017.
From there, Kho served for two years and two months as the managing editor for the Huffington Post, where she went on to work another 20 months as director of strategic innovation, leaving in mid-2021.
Since October 2021, she’s been the journalism and information equity consultant at DoGoodery, “a social impact agency for change makers” in Los Angeles.
Her jargon-laced professional bio on the DoGoodery site says that at the Guardian and HuffPo, Kho “worked collaboratively across editorial, audience, operations, innovation, revenue and business development teams to help transform both award-winning newsrooms, grow their impact and their business.” And that “her greatest success has come from working collaboratively and cross-functionally to ideate, evaluate, prioritize and execute unified strategies holistically — not piecemeal — across these interconnected areas so that work across all teams contributes to the overall strategy and goals.”
News: Republican gubernatorial hopeful Darren Bailey issues a statement that says, “As governor, I will put a ban on destructive, ‘woke’ policies that create inequalities and unfairness in our classrooms. Any school district attempting to infect wokeness into the grading policies will be ineligible for state funding.”
View: Bailey fulminates fecklessly like a blowhard at the end of the bar. And he’s a hypocrite. I’ll just crib here from Rich Miller at Capitol Fax: “This is the same guy who said “Government needs to be pulled out of our schools” and told Fox News on June 2, “I want the government out of our schools.”
News: The city of Aurora revokes the special-event permit for Sunday’s scheduled Aurora Pride Parade following a tiff between organizers and the Aurora Police Department.
View: Parade organizers earlier banned uniformed police officers from marching in the parade, saying the uniforms were triggering to some members of their community, so, golly, wouldn’t you know it, organizers couldn’t find enough officers in Aurora or surrounding communities willing to work overtime to provide the requisite security, so the parade was canceled Wednesday.
I thought the parade organizers were wrong to break with recent tradition and exclude uniformed cops who wanted to march with them in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community. The presence of uniformed officers in such a parade sends an important message of inclusion and acceptance both to marchers and watchers.
And while I totally understand why members of law enforcement would then not want to work the parade route — We know where we’re not wanted! — the implication that a group needs the imprimatur of rank-and-file police officers in order to hold a parade on a public street is troubling and would seem to have obvious First Amendment implications.
Meanwhile, in the adult world, San Francisco Pride Parade organizers who initially also wanted to ban uniformed police from their June 26 parade have reached a compromise that will allow a small group of uniformed officers to march.
News: Gas prices continue to rise.
View: We should be hearing a clamorous demand that employers help reduce demand by again encouraging employees to work from home. Ireland is on it.
No surprise: A new poll illustrates the significant partisan split on gun policy
CBS/YouGov found 44% of Republicans think mass shootings are “unfortunately something we have to accept as part of a free society.” Only 15% of Democrats are in this “Whaddaya gonna do?” coalition that has evidently decided to shrug at the inevitability of this sort of carnage on our streets, in our schools and in business settings.
The crosstabs of the poll reveal other strong partisan divides.
How much would the following measures do to prevent mass shootings?
Banning the sale of semi-automatic weapons would help …
Democrats: A lot — 72% ; Some — 18% ; Not much/not at all — 10%
Republicans: A lot — 15% ; Some — 24%; Not much/not at all — 61%
More background checks before gun purchases would help …
Democrats: A lot — 74%; Some — 18%; Not much/not at all — 8 %
Republicans: A lot — 41%; Some — 37%; Not much/not at all — 22%
More "red flag" laws to remove guns from dangerous people would help …
Democrats: A lot — 70%; Some — 22%; Not much/not at all — 8%
Republicans: A lot — 33%; Some — 33%; Not much/not at all — 34%
More police and armed guards in public places such as schools and churches would help …
Democrats: A lot — 33%; Some — 36; Not much/not at all — 30%
Republicans: A lot — 59%; Some — 31%; Not much/not at all — 10%
Allowing more law-abiding citizens to carry guns in public would help …
Democrats: A lot — 5%; Some —21%; Not much/not at all — 63%
Republicans: A lot — 53%; Some — 30%; Not much/not at all — 17%
More faith and religion in people’s lives would help …
Democrats: A lot — 21%; Some — 23%; Not much/not at all — 56%
Republicans: A lot — 54%; Some — 26%; Not much/not at all — 19%
Land of Linkin’
The video “Liberace and the Young Folk perform 'Feelin' Groovy'“ is simply mind-blowing. I wish it were on YouTube so I could embed it here. But do click. You won’t be sorry. Or, rather, you may be very, very sorry.
The dystopian 1973 film “Soylent Green” was set in the hellish America of 2022 where people are fighting over access to protein bars made of processed human flesh. Well, that hasn’t happened yet, but Mashable took a look at what the movie got right and got wrong about 2022.
When former Tribune columnist John Kass posted a tweet with a typo in the hyperlink to his website, an enterprising wag redirected johnkasnews.com to Neil Steinberg’s acidic January 2021 post, “In defense of John Kass.” (By the way, hat tip to Judge Dibs for noting that Kass, in his monthly “eat shit” (moutza) posting, doesn’t give a faceful to the faint-hearted, dithering, mendacious and obfuscatory law enforcement officials in Uvalde, Texas. Instead he shoves feces at Beto O’Rourke for politicizing the tragedy. Another reminder that only lefties eat shit in Kassakhstan.)
“I can’t stand Brooke (Gladstone) and she can’t stand me,” writes Bob Garfield of his former “On The Media” co-host in “Some Personal News,” a Substack post in which he gives his side of his very messy departure from the prominent podcast a little more than a year ago.
A guest essay in Saturday’s Tribune stressing the importance of the upcoming Apple Car prompts me to remind one and all that Apple, for all its cool, sleek, smoothly functioning products, does not have a perfect track record. Here’s “Top 20 Biggest Failed Products of Apple That Apple Wants You to Forget,” including Newton, Lisa, Pippin and the dreaded round mouse.
Here’s an excellent, hopeful story by Mack Liederman at Block Club Chicago: “Chicago-Bred Baller Chase Adams Went Viral At Age 13. Now He’ll Get A Second Shot At College Basketball.”
In “Never Heard Of Mayoral Candidate Ald. Roderick Sawyer? Let Me Help,” Patch pundit Mark Konkol drops a plane-load of truth bombs on those intrigued by the mayoral candidacy of Ald. Roderick Sawyer, 6th: “The former clout worker, owner of no-bid city contract winning trucking company, who openly opined that fellow aldermen, even the crooks, should stick together rather than help the feds root out corruption, is asking voters — including the more than 50 percent in his own ward that didn't want him in 2019 — to elect him boss.”
The Picayune Sentinel on the air: Friday at 4:30 p.m., WCPT-AM 820 host Joan Esposito and I will chat about ideas raised in the new issue. (Scheduling conflicts have moved us this week from Thursday to Friday) .The listen-live link is here.
The left needs to stop paying attention to Kyle Rittenhouse
One reason Kyle Rittenhouse has been in the news lately is that every time a deranged young man commits mass murder — as in Buffalo, as in Uvalde — some of my lefty friends harrumph that they were no doubt inspired by Rittenhouse’s acquittal last year for shooting and killing two men and wounding a third during street confrontations in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020.
This is nonsense, of course. The evidence showed that Rittenhouse was a doofus wanna-be cop, not an aspiring predatory killer, and he was acquitted because jurors found that he fired in self-defense when under attack from protesters who were in the streets objecting to an earlier police shooting in town.
A second reason is that Rittenhouse reupped his threat Monday to file defamation suits based on characterizations of him as a white supremacist and mass murderer: “We’re going to make the media pay for what they did to me,” he told Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
This, too, is nonsense, or certainly should be regarded as such until his lawyers actually file a suit and lay out specific and actionable claims. A threat to file a lawsuit should always be regarded as empty, non-newsworthy bluster. (I’m of the minority opinion in the journalism world that the mere act of filing a lawsuit doesn’t make the claims in the suit newsworthy, and that reporters should wait until a judge allows the case to proceed.) But Rittenhouse is trying to raise money for the legal effort.
A third reason is that Rittenhouse announced on a conservative podcast Friday that he’ll be attending Texas A&M University: “It’s going to be awesome,” he said. “Beautiful campus, amazing people, amazing food.”
Only that, too, was nonsense. The university released a statement to that effect Monday, prompting Rittenhouse to clarify that he plans to attend nearby Blinn College, a two-year institution with an open enrollment policy.
A fourth reason is that Rittenhouse posted a tweet Monday showing him firing an automatic rifle, then saying “Joe Biden, you’re not coming for our guns.”
And finally, there’s “Rittenhouse Lauded as Husband Material at Women's Leadership Summit,” the story of how a speaker at a conference of conservative women in Grapevine, Texas, introduced Rittenhouse as “the kind of man you should want to be attracted to.”
I recognize there is irony in me telling you to ignore such news even as I chronicle it here. But I intend this as a reminder that a big reason Rittenhouse hasn’t faded into obscurity is that the left overreacted to his story, raised the stakes of his trial and turned a mope into a martyr. I had a lot to say about this in the Nov. 24, 2021 ,issue of the Picayune Sentinel just days after the acquittal:
I understand the “poetic truth” of the Rittenhouse verdict — that it feels like a victory for right-wing gun enthusiasts and white supremacists, and a loss for the forces of social justice who are fighting for racial equity.
It ain’t so. But all this garment rending and fear mongering risks making it so. This trial was narrowly and appropriately focused on a confusing, chaotic and deeply regrettable couple of minutes. Rittenhouse was a naive young man with a hero complex who was in way over his head.
A reminder should go out that even though Rittenhouse was under direct attack when he fired his gun, he came damn close to having to spend years, if not the rest of his life, in prison. Tweak a few of the variables in what happened and he’d be wearing an orange jumpsuit today.
He’s a dumbass, a liar and a provocateur. But he’s not a murderer, and he’s not a genuine threat to anyone, so he’s not important enough to keep track of. Let the right celebrate him, if that’s the best they can do.
Mary Schmich: A poem in my closet
My former colleague Mary Schmich posts column-like thoughts most Tuesdays on Facebook. Here is this week’s offering:
I’ve been slowly weeding through the closet where I keep old papers—letters, journals, tax returns, unfinished short stories—and I keep finding things I have no recollection of writing. I found this scribbled poem and when I started reading it I wondered: Who is this about?
By the time I got to the last line, I knew. It was about my brother Bill, an avid gardener. I wrote it a few months after he died in 2013. But the fact that I wasn’t sure said a couple of things to me. One: I feel this way about several people I’ve lost and I think it’s a widely shared feeling. Two: My memory sucks.
Sharing it in case it resonates for anyone else, with the caveat that I don’t really write poems except for what I call doggerel. God forbid a Real Poet see this, so if you are one, scroll on by!
"As If" You died and I Went on as if You never really Left us. I did my work I paid the bills I changed my sheets I showered. Some days I laughed Out loud, and hard So hard it felt like Weeping. I washed the floors I scrubbed the sink I poured some wine While singing. I ground the beans I watched TV I answered mail And waited As if As if As if As if As if you’d just Gone shopping. As if one day You’d wander back And say, “Hey, I’ve been thinking… “I think today’s The perfect day To plant Some new tomatoes.”
On the latest episode of “The Mincing Rascals” podcast, host John Williams, Austin Berg and I, covering for the other regular panelists who had, you know, actual work to do, discuss Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s campaign rollout, education failures in Illinois, anti-gay cheers at soccer matches, the latest developments with the Aurora Pride parade and much, much more.
Subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts. Or bookmark this page. If you’re not a podcast listener, you can now hear an edited version of the show at 8 p.m. most Saturday evenings on WGN-AM 720.
This week’s nominees for Tweet of the Week:
My friend is addicted to helium. I won't criticize him, however, as he always speaks highly of me. — @AllanForsyth
If I could ask God for one thing, it would probably be power equal to or greater than his own. — @CalmTomb
”Viewer discretion is advised.” In the entire history of visual media, has any person ever seen this warning and said “Oh! Wait! I have no idea what’s in this show, but I just cannot take that risk!”? — @UnFitz
If I was a ninja, my ninja name would be Gary. Nobody would see that coming. — @wildethingy
You did it again, Jude. You let me down. — @quipitgood
The crypto goodbye is the Irish goodbye but with all your savings. — @SamGrittner
The term “baby steps” is so offensive to babies. If you’re a baby, taking a step is the most impressive thing you’ve ever done. — @ginnyhogan_
Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll be buried in student loan debt and won’t be able to get a job with his fishing degree. — @geekysteven
“I want them to taste…okay ” …. inventor of the fortune cookie — @Cpin42
If he refers to women as "females" you're not getting any child support. — @citizenkawala
Every school should be surrounded by a thick greenbelt, and in that forested ring, spaced roughly 10-25 feet apart, should be men in ghillie suits, ideally ex-military, LEOs or Blackwater -- silent, motionless sentries communicating with each other only in clicks and whistles. — @pourmecoffee
GOP: Abortion is murder! Us: What about actual murder? GOP: Mental illness! Us: What about healthcare to help treat mental illness? GOP: Healthcare is a privilege not a right! — @OhNoSheTwitnt
So it seems like children have been doing mass shooter drills but cops haven't?— @nealbrennan
Ted Cruz is that kid you played tag with who always shouted I GOT YOU when he really never touched you. — @BuckyIsotope
Whether you start off stupid (Donald) or smart (Elon), if you spend decades surrounded only by people who only tell you yes and how fabulous you are, you wind up confidently saying ridiculous things. — @BettyBowers
The “do my own research” crowd is awful quiet when it comes to other countries and gun violence solutions. — @SamGrittner
Ironically, America is the only nation on the planet who has decided that the only way to treat mental illness is with more guns. — @AmishSuperModel
I’m no expert, but it kind of feels like letting traitors and crooks get away with everything is not working. — @Jake_Vig
“We are the party of small government & free markets.” —Republicans, any other election year “We demand a socialist government that controls free markets with a POTUS responsible for the supply & demand of ALL goods, including gas & baby formula!” —Republicans, 2022 --@BettyBowers
AND THE WINNING TWEET: I have two words for anyone who thinks Herschel Walker is too stupid, mentally ill, and dishonest to ever be elected: Donald Trump. — @BettyBowers
By the way, the Tuesday subscriber-only issues of the Picayune Sentinel contain the best of the visual tweets — ones I can’t use in the poll because the polling platform is text-only — for example this one:
The Tuesday issue also contains many dissenting views presented via email along with my responses as well as assorted other items. Paying subscribers also get access to the comments section and the satisfaction of supporting and sustaining this enterprise.
Race to the slop
As long as the Cubs and White Sox are both under .500, I’ll be posting this weekly update:
White Sox 26-28 .481
Cubs 23-33 .411 (4 games back)
The news that Jim Seals of the soft-rock duo Seals and Crofts died Monday at age 79* snapped me back 50 years to the summer of 1972 when this song was burbling out of my radio seemingly every hour and defined what life was like for a fairly carefree 14-year-old in the interim between eighth and ninth grades.
“Summer breeze makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind.”
Songfacts explains that jasmine is “a flower that blooms in the summer (and is) also good for tea,” and the refrain is intended “to bring about feelings of contentment and harmony … enjoying some simple pleasures in life with the ones you love.”
In 1975, Seals told Melody Maker that "Summer Breeze" was "a very simple song about a man coming home from work and hearing the dog barking and things like that, and to a lot of people the song's about looking for security. Our meaning goes further than that, for a prison can be the prison of self and a person can become insecure and paranoid if he doesn't have a direction in his personal life."
I was not (and still am not) concerned with the prison of the self, but I honor the effort. “Summer Breeze” reached No. 13 on the charts in 1972, a year that's smack in the middle of an approximately eight-year window in my life when I listened to hit songs on the radio for hours every day. My guess is that most people of a certain vintage have such a window, one that tended to close as our musical tastes diverged from the pop mainstream and then solidified.
In 1994, I wrote a column about this phenomenon pegged to the death of Kurt Cobain. Part of it read like this:
Somewhere along the line between then and now I lost the ability or need to resonate with the intensity, energy and turmoil in the best of modern music.
The car stereo seemed to end up on the talk and information stations more and more often. The list of top singles published every week in the paper gradually became a mysterious roster of unfamiliar titles and artists. Had I been less self-aware, the old cliches — "How can kids listen to that noise?" "They call that music?" — would have sprung from my sour lips.
For a time I fought against this obvious creep toward fuddy-duddyhood. I dutifully punched up hit music stations from time to time and even taped their countdowns of the top 100 songs on New Year's Day several times and made honest efforts to listen to them all by the end of January, just so as not to lose touch.
It was not meant to be. Good rock music is the soundtrack for a life with jagged edges, painful mysteries, ineffable feelings. It does not dull these sensations-soothe the savage breast, as the saying goes-but understands, justifies and even intensifies them. When you're young, it's easy to feel like certain tunes were written just for you, and the louder you crank them the more perfectly they duplicate your internal rhythms.
But life itself slowly gets less jagged, if you're at all lucky and if you're paying attention. You only fall in love for the first time once, you only have your heart broken for the first time once and, after a while, when experience starts to repeat itself, the mysteries get less painful and the feelings more effable.
It's a terrible loss, in a way. "Information" becomes more important than soul-rattling poetry and sound. You trade emotional profundity for security. You start trying to think carefully instead of freshly. Rounded edges are, after all, dull.
But it's also a magnificent loss. With experience comes direction and a certain settling and narrowing of the tastes in people, clothing and music. You find out who you really are as opposed to what you dreamt or feared you'd be. Life starts seeming less like an experiment and more like a work in progress.
The familiar becomes more affirming than the new. That noise on the radio-no matter how similar to or even better than the noise that defined your youth-often seems boring or disturbing (or both) because it rephrases the old questions and poses new ones. And you've already settled on most of your answers.
When did it happen to me? When did that kid who knew the words to every song in the Top 40 in (God help me) the mid-'70s become a guy who, when he wants to think, turns the radio off instead of on, and who has to look up how to spell Kurt Cobain's first name?
Longer ago than it ever seems.
1972 was the year of “Alone Again (Naturally),” “American Pie,” “The Candy Man.” “Lean on Me,” “Brand New Key,” “Popcorn,” and, let’s not forget, “My Ding-a-Ling.” I won’t go on, but I could. I’d say half the songs on that year’s Billboard Top 100 still blow easily through the jasmine in my mind.
*The number of news outlets that said he was 80 when he died is dismaying. He was born in October 1942, which, as The New York Times correctly noted, made him 79.
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